JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi talks about alleged fractures within NDA, CM Nitish Kumar’s USP, migration and anti-incumbency in the state.
Will LJP patriarch Ram Vilas Paswan’s death hurt the JD(U)’s prospect in seats where the LJP is also contesting?
Ram Vilas Paswan was a Dalit leader of national stature. He grew under socialist icon Karpoori Thakur (former chief minister of Bihar) as a prominent Dalit face. But he was well settled in national politics for about 25 years. Although he did have a following in Bihar, JD(U) chief and CM Nitish Kumar has cultivated a big constituency of Mahadalits from Scheduled Caste groups. Paswan (a scheduled caste), which was included in the Mahadalit category on the request of Ram Vilas Paswan, has benefitted from several education and welfare schemes. In any case, the NDA and Grand Alliance are rivals in Bihar politics and there is no third player.
Do you think the BJP is working behind the scenes to emerge as the single largest party by using the LJP?
The BJP has made it clear time and again that the NDA would contest the polls under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. It has also issued stern warnings to its rebel leaders, who are now contesting as LJP candidates. The NDA is working as a unit and (the partners are) not competing with each other.
But the BJP is contesting in nearly equal number of seats as the JD(U) for the first time in Assembly polls.
We contested as equal partners in the last Lok Sabha elections as well. The number of seats being contested by individual parties is not important. It is our combined winning number that will matter. The BJP has clearly said that Nitish Kumar will be CM if NDA is voted to power. Which party wins more (seats) is not a subject of discussion. Right from PM Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to BJP national president J P Nadda, all have said that Nitish would be the NDA leader. The matter should be allowed to rest.
Don’t you think the Bihar government could have dealt with the migrant issue and Covid-19 in a better manner between April and July?
When the lockdown was in place, the public could not have been allowed to travel. PM Modi had appealed to people to stay back where they were. Nitish Kumar toed the line… It is for all to see how the Bihar government later reached out to migrants by spending over Rs 5,600 per person at quarantine centres and also gave Rs 1,000 in cash to each of them. This is besides the advance PDS grains to the cardholder and non-cardholder migrants.
As for Covid-19, daily testing in Bihar is now way ahead of the national average and our recovery rate is over 93 per cent. The state government did face challenges in June and July because of the surge in number of cases but it was an unprecedented and unimaginable situation.
Isn’t the JD(U) apprehensive of the anti-incumbency factor?
Nitish Kumar has no rival who can match his high credentials. The people are clear in their minds of Nitish alone being the CM face. The public will have to make a comparison between our 15 years and RJD-Congress’s 15 years. It is LED versus lantern. It is not about anti-incumbency but about how much Nitish Kumar has done and what more he could do for Bihar.
What if BJP workers turn passive towards your candidates?
NDA workers have known one another for a long time. When the message has come from top BJP leaders about the likely action against its rebels in LJP camp, there should be no confusion. The NDA’s fight is against the RJD-led Grand Alliance. There may have been some attempts to hurt us but the voters are intelligent enough to see through it. We believe in NDA solidarity and the maturity of voters.…
Don’t you think LJP leader Chirag Paswan should have been given parity by your leaders?
It was Nitish Kumar who had requested the LJP to join his government. We had invited Ram Vilas Paswan and other LJP leaders to dinner and also made Pashupati Kumar Paras (younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan) a minister and later sent him to the Upper House in Bihar legislature. It is not fair to allege that we did not give LJP parity.
Also read | Chirag Paswan: His father’s son
What is Nitish Kumar’s USP? The Opposition says he is short of ideas now.
Nitish Kumar’s biggest USP is making honest attempts to realise the socialist goals set by the likes of Karpoori Thakur. From fee waiver to girls and the bicycle scheme to sound infrastructure — roads and electricity, he now wants to irrigate every field if voted back to power. In fact, the Opposition is short of ideas. Is there any alternative model being offered?
But why has the government failed to check migration in 15 years?
Migration is not Bihar-specific. It is a global phenomenon. We are trying to build good education centres. We have opened engineering colleges in every district. We are trying to promote small and medium industries. We have done skill mapping of about 18 lakh migrants, who have returned to Bihar, and have been trying to engage them.
Your party has fielded 10 Muslim candidates. What gives you the confidence that the minority will vote for you?
The minority community is well aware of the social and educational schemes that the Nitish Kumar government has undertaken in the last 15 years. There are skill development programmes and education loan schemes for them. The minority’s support for us is well reflected in all elections since 2009.
Former JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar claims that his forum AIPMM has appealed to Muslims to not to vote for the JD(U).
There are over half-a-dozen parties claiming themselves to be secular. However, it boils down to concrete work and not slogans. When people go out to vote, they would surely… not waste their votes.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines