Clad in a starched white kurta-pyjama and sporting a stubble, Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav looks relaxed after attending a pre-lunch sitting of the ongoing budget session at his office. The 26-year-old son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and the heir apparent listens patiently to aides, throwing a glance at a TV screen airing the news now and then. “I am still learning legislative business. But, I want to deliver,” he tells HT in an interview. Excerpts:
Q. You are the youngest deputy CM of Bihar. How do you see your new role and priorities?
A. It’s a huge responsibility. It’s been only three months in government and we have started working on many areas to deliver on promises made during the campaign. I am learning legislative business and hold regular talks with MLAs, many of whom are first-timers. My priority is to deliver in my assigned role.
Q. The government in its three months has faced attacks on deteriorating law and order and crime incidents. What is your view?
A. The Opposition has no issue left after the drubbing it got in the polls. If we see the crime rate, Bihar ranks 22nd among states. The BJP-led NDA does not talk about crime in states where it is in power.
Q. But the last three months have seen several murders, including of engineers. Your party MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav has been accused of rape of a minor. The Opposition has called it the return of “jungle raj”?
A. If there is “jungle raj”, how is it that the government acted tough against the MLA , registered an FIR and initiated steps to attach his property? As for the killing of engineers, most of the accused have been arrested. The world saw what happened in Patiala House courts when JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was being presented. Was that not “jungle raj”?
Q. There is a growing perception that the RJD as the bigger ally in the coalition government is trying to call the shots, leading to a rift with allies...
A. This is wrong. RJD chief Lalu Prasad has clearly stated his stand that he would not interfere in governance. He has given a free hand to chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Q. As the minister for roads, building construction and backward classes welfare, how are you focusing on these key portfolios?
A. My priority as road minister is to make connectivity in Bihar smoother and time-saving. We have set a target for reaching Patna from the farthest point (Kishanganj) in five hours against the 10 that it takes now. Work on our road master plan 2025 has started whereby we want to upgrade single lanes into double and four-lane roads into six-lane.
Q. Do you have the resources to implement such schemes? Bihar has been seeking higher funds from the Centre?
A. That is a challenge. The condition of state highways is far better than national highways’. Bihar has not been getting adequate funds to repair or maintain the 2,400 km of national highways falling in the state. We get only Rs 500 crore when the requirement is much higher. I met Union minister Nitin Gadkari recenlty, seeking Rs 2,800 crore for maintenance and also another bridge over the Ganga to connect north Bihar. But nothing was given in the Union budget.
Q. You recently announced plans to stage a nationwide agitation over the suicide of Rohith Vemula and JNU students’ arrest on sedition charges. Is it a move to position yourself as a youth icon nationally?
A. The JNU agitation was a fallout of the suicide committed by Vemula. The videos of so-called anti-national slogans in JNU have been found doctored. The nation is against the BJP and it will be reflected in the coming polls in various states. It is not about positioning myself but about a cause, which every youth like me feels strongly about.