Rashtriya Janata Dal president and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad hit the ground in Patna with a ‘Parivartan rally’, hoping to prove his detractors wrong about his vote winning capabilities.
In an interview with Anirban Guha Roy, Prasad talks of his growing distaste for the Nitish Kumar government, the projection of his sons and his relationship with the Congress. Excerpts:
What was your Parivartan rally about?
The rally’s objective was to seek a mandate from the people to change the Nitish Kumar led NDA government in Bihar as it has failed to live up to the aspirations of the people and has cheated them.
There is ghuskhori (bribery) and corruption in all departments, secondary and higher education has collapsed, migration is still on, and not a single big investment has come to Bihar in the last eight years.
There is big hype over a small diamond cutting and polishing unit being established in Patna. What’s the big deal? (laughs) .
Such units have been there already in Jehanabad and people are setting up such units as labour is cheap here. This government talked of online education in schools.
Where are the computers…? Is there power in villages in Bihar? Yes, there are liquor vends in the remotest places of this state.
Those, who voted for Nitish Kumar now say, they committed a blunder and feel betrayed. Even MLAs and panchayat representatives are frustrated. They are all now looking at me to provide an alternative.
It was evident from the way “lakhs and lakhs of people” came to attend the rally, standing firm for six to seven hours at a stretch braving the scorching sun. The huge turnout is an indication against the NDA government.
I also gave a message to people to save the country as there is a lurking threat of the nation getting divided by the communal forces led by RSS and the BJP, which are once again trying to inflame passions and spread hatred in a bid to capture power at the Centre ( Hastinapur) in 2014 polls.
But, the firkaparasth takat (communal forces) would never succeed in their evil designs as the country’s fabric is secular. It is now imperative for all secular forces to unite to save this country.
But the JD(U) and BJP have dubbed the rally a flop. Chief minister Nitish Kumar has not even taken cognizance of your show.
There cannot be a bigger joke than this. The chief minister’s ignorance of the rally has proved the point that Nitish Kumar does not deserve to be at the helm of affairs as he is completely detached from daily events in the state and knows nothing about what is going on.
I challenge those people calling my rally a flop to gather at least 5000 people at Gandhi Maidan in this heat. They are people, who live in air- conditioned comfort, and are not in sync with the common masses.
Nitish’s bonhomie with union finance minister recently has raised speculations about JD (U) inching closer to Congress..
Yes, the chief minister played a good host to P Chidambaram, Acha Khatirdari kiye… But what would the chief minister do even if he gets the special category status for Bihar?
What has been the achievement of states already in special status category? Bihar is already getting huge central devolutions as part of the Backward region grant fund (BRGF), which we started in UPA-I government.
The only difference would be the matching grants, as the Centre would bear 90% while the state would have to bear 10% in central schemes. Nitish is actually trying to cover up for his failures by harping on special status category.
But people of Bihar are already wary of him. Besides, the chief minister says he would go with anybody who gives Bihar a special status.
Doesn’t that portray a picture of a politician who has no ideology? We have never compromised on our principles and commitments.
Do you see the JD (U) aligning with the Congress?
Let Nitish go to the Congress as early as he can. I will be the happiest man and would offer laddoos at the Hanuman Mandir and also offer chadar at the shrine of Hazrat Murad Shah near Patna High Court.
Nitish’s gameplan is to create an illusion about his proximity with the Congress to sideline the BJP. But, in real terms, he will never leave the NDA as he is integrally attached with the alliance and is a toy in the hands of the RSS.
You did not speak against the Congress in your rally despite the party facing so many charges?
Yes, there have been so many charges, coalgate, power, sona gate, chandi gate… what not. But let the Supreme Court look into the charges.
By the way those crying hoarse about the charges are all disruptive elements, who stalled parliament. People of the country will give them a befitting reply in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Is it because the RJD is hoping for electoral ties with the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha polls?
Right now, we are not focusing on that issue at all. Our primary goal is to keep the communal forces at bay and unite all secular forces to form the next government at the Centre. This will happen.
Earlier too, we had stood for the same objective when we formed the UPA-I government. Congress is a big party and I have always stood behind UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi when she was being attacked by the BJP on her foreign origin. I have high regard for her and always support her.
If you do not have a pre-poll alliance with Congress, will RJD be part of a third front?
There is no question of a third front. All secular parties would come under a common umbrella to form the next government at the Centre. May be, they would all fight alone but realign after post election. It’s an era of coalition and it would stay.
Aren’t you guilty of promoting dynastic rule by projecting your two sons Tep Pratap and Tejaswi at Parivartan rally?
That’s a cheap thought. Did my sons share the dais at the rally? They told me “Papa we will not come to the dais.” By the way, will my sons hold a flag of Kamal or Teer (symbols of BJP and JD (U)).
They will obviously hold a lantern (symbol of the RJD). Nitish’s party, the JD (U) is not a political entity but a group of ‘Dal badloos (defectors) who all switched from the RJD. I had groomed Nitish. Of course, the BJP is a political party in its own right as it has an organisation.
In recent public meetings, you have been seeking forgiveness for past mistakes? Do you still hope the RJD would make a comeback?
Yes, we may have committed mistakes in our time and probably some sections of people were hurt. I am seeking forgiveness for it, assuring the same will never happen again, if we are voted back to power.
In previous elections especially in 2009 and 2010, there was a vote division as Congress, left and ML fought separately. There was just a 3% vote difference between our party and ruling JD (U), which upset us.
This would not be the case in coming polls as people who voted for Nitish have turned their backs on him and are rallying behind me. The mahadalits have been treated like servants by this government. There is a lot of hype and hoopla that development has taken place in Bihar.
Go to villages and find out whether there is power or not. In Bihar, power scarcity is acute, but what has happened. The chief minister called for help from Bhutan, but would the neighboring country give power to the national grid or to the state? What about Kanti and Barauni thermal stations? they have not come up yet.
This government is only purchasing power and raising tariff. It has also hiked the registration rates making it impossible for the medium and lower income group people to purchase land. They have created no assets in the state in the last eight years.
There is still an air of uncertainty over NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. Even the chief minister has said, the NDA‘s PM candidate should be of secular credentials?
Where is the doubt that Modi would be the PM candidate of the BJP? He is the unofficial PM candidate and even the deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has cleared the air, saying the next BJP PM would be from the extremely backward caste.
Why is Nitish not asking Sushil Modi who is the EBC candidate? Moreover, the chief minister’s observation on secular credentials sounds hollow, as the same person was part of the NDA rule at the Centre when Gujarat riots broke out.
Former minister Ram Vilas Paswan had walked out of the government. But did Nitish do the same then when he was so concerned about secularism?
Should the UPA project its PM candidate?
I do not want to comment on it. As I said earlier, all secular forces would come together to form the next government at the Centre and we will all sit and decide on the PM candidate.
What are the plans for your party?
I have already started touring the state. Now, I will be going back to the people to mobilise support and also galvanise my party workers for a sustained campaign against the faulty policies of the Nitish government.