RJD leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Yadav’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti is trying her luck again from Patliputra in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, Misa had lost from the same seat to RJD rebel Ram Kripal Yadav who had joined the BJP. She talks to indianexpress.com on her prospects, fighting an election without Lalu Prasad and the strife within her family. Edited excerpts:
How big a task is it for you and Tejashwi to contest Lok Sabha Elections without the direct involvement of Lalu Prasad?
It is not merely mine or Tejaswi’s duty to negate the absence of Laluji in this Lok Sabha election. All senior leaders and party workers have taken up upon themselves to overcome this handicap. Laluji is not just an individual, but an ideology who resides in the hearts of people. He single-handedly gave voice to the marginalised, oppressed and victimised sections of the society… how can people forget that positive contribution on their lives. That’s why we don’t feel any pressure to fill the void created by his absence, which is otherwise an impossible feat to achieve.
How do you see the rift between your brothers (Tejaswi and Tej Pratap)? Is it going to damage the party’s morale?
RJD is more than a political outfit. It is a group of highly driven people who follow a person who is credited to have brought about a revolutionary social change in a society. Much has been written in the media about the so-called rift or rivalry between Tej Pratap and Tejashwi, which is only a case of too much ado about nothing. It is a common practice in any political party that cadre or leaders recommend candidates as per their wish. Tej Pratap may have aired his resentment over his recommended candidates being left out. But everything ended there only. Everything is settled. Nothing more than that. No cause for concern. No rebellion. He is campaigning for the party, and more so in Pataliputra.
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Being an elder sister, you must have spoken to Tej Pratap. What does his rebellion mean for the family and the party?
As I said, there is no rebellion. There was a voicing of resentment outside the party forum. And it ended with that then and there only. There is nothing for our rivals to make merry about.
What’s unique about RJD’s manifesto?
Only our party has underlined the need for bringing about real social and economic justice for the Bahujan class who have been systematically denied access to a ladder to inclusion as well as social and economic upliftment. Our focus will be on rural employment generation and filling all backlog vacancies. Modi government gave 10 per cent reservations to the most prosperous section of the society on economic basis by amending the Constitution as if it were a poverty alleviation programme. Savarnas are already over-represented in every walk of life. We are the only political party which has addressed this injustice in the society by promising reservations for Bahujans in proportion to their percentage in the population. Apart from that, we have also vowed to end collegium system in the judiciary and replace it with a system in which Dalits, OBCs and tribals will get reservations in proportion to their percentage in population.
Almost every party looks united against Narendra Modi. But how will this Mahagathbandan work when it comes to Assembly elections?
In Assembly elections too the Mahagathbandhan will fight against the fascism unleashed by the BJP, Sangh and other NDA partners. With the arrival of BJP in power in Bihar, organised crime, communalism, crime against women and weaker sections have increased manifold. The government has been claiming Sushasan for last 15 years, but without jobs, prosperity and peace.
Do you see Rahul Gandhi as Prime Ministerial Candidate? Why?
I do see in Rahul Gandhi a future prime minister of India. He has shown a humane attitude and his ability to lead the grand old party of India into the future. India is a country with cultural, religious and geographical diversity and economic and social disparity. Only a compassionate and liberal person who respects this diversity and understands the disparity can lead the country to the glorious and prosperous future, not someone who only has only his own version of a concocted past.
Your take on BJP in Bihar.
I see Bihar BJP as a headless chicken, without a face and without any brain of its own, running in every direction without any vision or pre-defined past. Without any face because there are too many faces competing with each other to take control of the party, without a brain because it has been decapitated by its present bosses to enforce complete subjugation and surrender. There are types of leaders in it. Those from the upper castes are of Sanghi mindset who despise OBCs, Dalits, Women and minorities. And those from the OBCs and Dalit castes are selfish and okay with being treated as second-grade party men as long as they get a party post to show.
What are the main takeaways for the RJD ahead of Lok Sabha polls? What are the main issues you are contesting elections on?
The main takeaway for the RJD ahead of Lok Sabha polls is the step-motherly treatment that the OBCs, SC & STs have received from the government continuously for five years. This government had an anti-Bahujan and Manuwadi agenda of reducing the 85 per cent of Indians as second rate citizens. They continuously worked to hollow down the reservations. The way Rohit Vemula was forced to kill himself, Una, Saharanpur, target killings of Bahujan Youth, attempt to repeal SC/ST Act, 13 point roster, stalling 27 per cent OBC reservation in MP, eviction orders for tribals, all these incidents and biased response of the government proves that oppression against the backward and scheduled castes and tribes was further being institutionalised. We will expose this casteist government to the core, and correct its misdeeds.
I am fighting these elections for development in Patliputra Lok Sabha seat, taking steps to create self-sustaining, self-sufficient villages in the region with ample opportunities for self employment, economic and social uplifting of the women, quality education in the region with special emphasis for education of the girl child, availability of pure drinking water for everyone and primary health care facility in each panchayat.
The Muzaffarpur shelter home issue is still there on voters’ mind. How is it going to affect the polls?
People want righteous people in the power for the safety of their daughters, not those who try to protect rapists to the extent of harshly getting rebuked by the Supreme Court. You can claim all the Sushasan and safety with your words, but it is your action that proves utility or futility of your words. Incidents of rapes, gang rapes, videographed rapes to force silence of the victims are at an all-time high, then with this case of organised rapes under the umbrella of the Bihar Government, Nitish Kumar has lost all credibility.
Cases against your family and party have always been on opposition’s target; how do you battle it out?
We are a family of closely knit resolute fellows. Small hiccups don’t deter us. My father is credited with changing the social landscape and consequently political ground realities of the Bihar which was otherwise completely dominated by the feudal elites. So we understand that there would be repercussions. Cases against us are an extension of those who didn’t like this social justice-based change and awakening of the downtrodden masses. Rival parties cannot defeat us on the basis of this social upliftment. So they have to rely on fake cases getting filed against us due to misuse of various agencies by the BJP. The matters are sub-judice, our conscience is clear and the truth will prevail.
You have been on the radar of several govt agencies over Benami properties, how do you defend this?
Indian citizens are very much aware of the double standards of the BJP where they are filing false cases on opposition leader on the flimsy ground. BJP has introduced a new brand of vendetta politics where anyone with affiliation to BJP can get away with anything, even murder or rapes. And those from the opposition are being targeted without any ground. The CBI went ahead with filing the case even after being advised against it by its legal wing in the IRCTC case. Disclosures were made that BJP’s leaders like Sushil Modi were dictating CBI’s next course of action. BJP is misusing all investigating agencies against the opposition. It has hijacked all autonomy from the Constitution bodies as the nation saw how Supreme court judges in an unprecedented manner publicly complained against the Government and the CJI. As regards benami, you have to prove that my property is held in someone else’s name. No such fact has come to light after all these raids and investigations. Courts will do justice.
How do you react to the PM’s attacks on your family?
The way Narendra Modi has lowered the discourse of Indian politics is appalling. It is unprecedented that the Prime Minister of India publicly passes personal comments and makes fun of his political opponents. He makes personal attacks which are unsuitable for a person at such a senior level of Indian democracy. He targets our family because he considers that our family is the biggest thorn in the flesh of his political aspirations as far as Bihar is concerned. RJD’s popularity has made sure that despite grave stated political differences JDU and BJP have to ride in the same boat of NDA as both of them know that it is impossible for them to defeat RJD alone. Nitish Kumar had insulted PM Modi so much in the past, but both are forced to forget and ignore their personal hatred for each other simply because the ground reality has made it clear to them that it is impossible for them to beat RJD in Bihar alone.
How is RJD planning to bank on its Muslim Vote bank?
We don’t believe in vote bank politics. We only have an ideology according to which we act and react honestly. We believe in the principles of secularism and Social Justice which we have proved over decades. We uphold these principles at any cost. My father always had a choice of mending political ties with BJP but he is always ready to sacrifice everything for the welfare of minorities and deprived sections of the society. If we are not honest to our stated ideology no extent of coercing and cajoling can bring Muslims to our fold or Dalits, Backwards and tribals would have never believed us. People judge you by your actions, not by your words and our actions have time and again proved that we are always there to safeguard the interests of the minorities and Bahujan class.
What do you think about Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics?
Priyanka’s foray in formal politics was much awaited. Everyone knows she is a charismatic leader having an uncanny knack of leaving a lasting impression on the people she meets anywhere. She has her own style of doing politics where she interacts and connects with people, asks very personal questions, make them feel comfortable and important and remembers their name and issues whenever she meets them next time.
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