J P NADDA: There’s no challenge. People want development and they have understood that time has come when Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is there to take care of Bihar and Nitish Kumar is there as an experienced sober person committed to good governance. So, he is going to implement the same. In the past few years, a sea change has taken place… Institutions, implementation of infrastructure, highways, over-bridges, flyovers, recruitments, development of institutes of national standards… people have seen (this) and they do not want development to get derailed again. People of Bihar are very conscious of their rights and they know who can (protect) those. So I find the BJP-NDA to be far ahead.
INDIAN EXPRESS: You mentioned recruitment. A promise like 10 lakh jobs made by Tejashwi Yadav is drawing crowds…
J P NADDA: It’s not a crowd. It is the committed voters of one particular style who have been with them for the past 20 years. When they (gather), others understand what is going to happen in Bihar. The same people, same supporters… Usse jyada koi nahin aata (No one beyond that). Bihars know that if these people come again, the same things are going to happen. There has been no change in the RJD’s character.
INDIAN EXPRESS: Tejashwi’s attack against Nitish Kumar is on jobs and the way he handled Covid… It seems to be creating some impact.
J P NADDA: Nitish is being compared with Nitish. And Nitish is a personality who believes in tough talk… and also good governance. There is no expectation from Tejashwi. People know that throughout corona, Tejashwi was in Delhi.
INDIAN EXPRESS: What’s your opinion of Tejashwi?
J P NADDA: They have not risen from the roots. They don’t know the problems. They are tutored, they can’t deliver. They are not honest to the cause. He has not attended (the House) as Leader of Opposition in the last year… (just) one day of the Budget Session. How are you going to explain it? This speaks volumes about (his) arrogance…feudalism, (his) disrespect for democracy.
INDIAN EXPRESS: The BJP has been in power at the Centre for six years now. Why are you still talking about 60 years of the Congress and 15 years of Lalu?
J P NADDA: Because we find there is a marked change during the Nitish regime in Bihar. It is our responsibility to put things on record so that there is no confusion in the minds of the people. In Bihar, people didn’t step out of their houses after 5 pm… there was no terrorism in Bihar (for them to be scared). Brothers didn’t send their sisters out alone. And who were the people (behind this)? (Mohammad) Shahabuddin, who was an RJD MP. He killed two brothers by pouring acid. One journalist wrote that the minister went to meet him in jail… he was murdered. Today’s DGP, he was hiding in the thana from Shahabuddin… Then (G) Krishnaiah, a Dalit officer from Andhra Pradesh, was lynched. How can we forget and let people forget all this?
INDIAN EXPRESS: On the ground, we hear many voices against Nitish. Have you heard these?
J P NADDA: We know who these are… inko peeda hui hai Lalu ko chodne ki. Yeh woh voices hain (They are those who were pained because of Nitish leaving Lalu). They were hurt because they had hijacked (po wer). If you want to compare, compare Nitish’s 2010 popularity with 2020 because theJD(U)-BJP was together then and JD(U)- BJP is together now.
INDIAN EXPRESS: What gives you the confidence that Nitish will remain with you?
J P NADDA: He has understood — and I had said this at that time too — that it (his alliance with Lalu) was unholy and unscientific and the chemistry didn’t match. People mocked me but I knew. Sushasan and Kushasan can’t be together. The chemistry does not match… unhone experiment karke dekh liya. I was the Health Minister then. I telephoned Nitish Kumar and told him that I am unable to contact your Health Minister. It was dengue season. He said, ‘What can I do Naddaji. Who do I tell?’. I told him I have to send medicines for dengue, I have to send a team of doctors…I need reports. ‘Yeh Tej Pratap (Tejashwi’s brother) ghode se hi nahin uttra (didn’t get off his high horse)’. So he knows. I knew it.
INDIAN EXPRESS: Chirag Paswan’s LJP is part of the NDA, but he is contesting against your alliance in Bihar. Why not remove him from the NDA?
J P NADDA: The BJP never expels anyone. Ours is a very disciplined party. It takes half a day for us to give a statement. There were two actions. One, we expelled all the (BJP people who were) LJP candidates… That ended their election prospects. And we made it clear that our alliance comprises four parties — the BJP, JD(U), HAM and VIP. Ours is a cadre-based party. Here the spirit of transferring votes is 100 percent.
INDIAN EXPRESS: JD(U) leaders are saying that the damage has been done.
J P NADDA: No damage. We don’t say bad things about anybody. But when we realise that somebody is taking advantage of it because we are quiet, we don’t allow it… (Saying) ‘I am Hanuman of Modiji’… that does not (mean) our workers are going to vote for you.
INDIAN EXPRESS: JD(U) leaders say the LJP should not get the Rajya Sabha seat as part of the NDA or join the Cabinet. Do you agree?
J P NADDA: We will see when it comes to that. But the point is very clear. There is no confusion between the BJP and the JD(U) and HAM and VIP. We are fighting together.
INDIAN EXPRESS: You have filled in Amit Shah’s big shoes. After taking over, you had to lead the party during a pandemic. What were your main challenges?
J P NADDA: Culture doesn’t change in our party with change of guard. We work with team spirit, we have a parliamentary board of which I am a member since 2014. I was Secretary of Parliamentary Board and the Central Election Committee. All decisions are collective and taken at the parliamentary board. Prime Minister Modi’s inputs are immense. I never felt that I had to fill big shoes or small shoes. I don’t speak a sentence that doesn’t have the consideration of the top people in the party.
And the batting order does not get changed if the captain changes. I am the captain now but Amit Shah remains the opener… Yes, as party president I will have to speak more. I have to attend public rallies, otherwise I was never on the dais, always amidst people to listen to their voices. Even today,
J P Nadda is not fighting elections alone, it is with full inputs from Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and the Honourable Prime Minister. I consulted Amit Shah on our programmes during the corona pandemic. I consult him regularly.
INDIAN EXPRESS: Could you have handled the migrant labour issue better?
J P NADDA: We handled it well. And it’s not an issue in Bihar. They are the most satisfied (with our measures). It was an unprecedented crisis, every day we had to handle different things.
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INDIAN EXPRESS: UP CM Yogi Adityanath has warned that those who wage what he calls ‘love jihad’ should be prepared for their last journey — Ram Naam Satya Hai ki Yatra… Do you approve of such remarks?
J P NADDA: Everyone has their own style of functioning and their choice of words is as per that…At the end of it, sabka saath sabka vikas, sabka vishwas will be the motto.
INDIAN EXPRESS: Ram naam satya hai is associated with death.
J P NADDA: I don’t subscribe to the view that this is the connotation (of what he said).
INDIAN EXPRESS: How important is a win in Bihar for you?
J P NADDA: For the BJP, every election is a challenge. I don’t take any lightly. I feel uncomfortable sitting in Delhi when a state is going to polls.
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