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Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar took the biggest decision of his political career when he snapped ties with the BJP on June 16. The wily politician, that he is, Kumar has not projected himself as the prime ministerial candidate but deftly placed himself as an alternative leader by challenging the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. His game plan may or may not succeed but he has taken up the challenge in a big way. In an interview on the eve of completion of eight years in office, Kumar says he hardly bothers about outcome of his gambit. Excerpts
What is your take on leaders being projected as PM-in-waiting?
It is not the 'face' but policies that matter. In India, people do not vote for any 'face' but for policies and programmes. We do not have a presidential form of government, in which, people go by individuals' credentials- good or bad. In our political system, any party or a leader becomes the prime minister only when he or she, or the party, gets the majority and required number of MPs. In the present context, policies and truth has been put to irrelevance behind the mask of one single individual (read Narendra Modi). But it would not work in a multi-cultural society like India.
From political controversy over NDA split to terror attacks, how do you look back at the past one year?
All these are occupational hazards, but it all depends on how you take up such challenges. In a democratic form of government, these things will go hand-in-hand. For a political leader, it is part of the game. I take it in my stride because no one has forced this job on me. Rather, I opted for this vocation and I am doing this job after seeking the mandate from the people. The situation leading to the NDA split was not caused all of a sudden. But sometimes, it pains me when people, who worked together, indulge in a sustained blame-game.
Has it affected your work?
Of course, they cause distraction, but my commitment is towards people's welfare. I do not work under pressure, rather I love to work and I work like a donkey. There are no files pending on my desk.
Bihar has of late become the new focus area of terror attacks. Is it not due to executive failure?
Bihar was never a target of terror outfits earlier. There were incidents of crime by organized criminals and abduction industry, which we tackled effectively when we came to power in November 2005. Bihar also has a history of left-wing extremism. But the attacks at Bodh Gaya and Patna's Gandhi Maidan are new phenomena. I admit the government did not have administrative preparedness to tackle such incidents.
How will your government tackle it?
We had no experience of handling terror strikes, but the recent incidents have forced us to act and we are confident that we would fight it well. In fact, the state cabinet had already approved the creation of anti-terror squad (ATS) much before the two Bihar incidents in view of growing terror strikes in the country. We too have taken a lesson from it and will introduce new security protocol for all rallies and at important installations. The security around Parliament was tightened only after its attack.
BJP blames the state for inadequate security arrangements at Gandhi Maidan for Modi's rally...
I do not want to fan controversy around security aspects at Gandhi Maidan. In fact, the Bihar police cracked the Gandhi Maidan explosions case within a few days of the blasts but we handed over the case to the NIA, because it is the only competent body in such cases.
Is your government soft on Maoists as the Centre and BJP has suggested?
The Opposition has made such allegations but they are not true. The Maoists' problem should be analysed in its entirety.