Former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi is the frontrunner for the top job in the state if the BJP and its allies win the assembly elections due in September-October.
Popularly known as 'SuMo', Modi talks to Binod Dubey on the political scenario in Bihar and the challenge the party faces from the Janata Parivar.
It is believed that after the JD(U) and RJD formalised their alliance, the caste equation would be in favour of the combine and both parties would be able to garner the backward and SC-ST votes in the assembly polls in Bihar? Do you agree with the perception?
No, this is not true. People belonging to upper castes, BC, EBC and SC-ST are so scared of Lalu Prasad because of the ‘jungle raj’ during the RJD regime that they cannot think of supporting the alliance in the polls. In fact, the JD (U) had a better chance in the coming elections had chief minister Nitish Kumar gone into the elections alone and, at least, not with Lalu Prasad.
After the alliance, vote base of the combine has expanded to 46%. Can the NDA take on the might of the JD(U) and RJD, and possibly the Congress and Left joining the grouping?
Again, this is not true for simple mathematics does not work in politics. The victory of candidates depends on various factors, including their local standing. So, it will be highly hypothetical to surmise that with the electoral pact between two parties, their vote banks would also amalgamate seamlessly. Moreover, I firmly believe that Lalu would not be able to transfer his votes to Nitish Kumar and vice-versa. This alliance is like a mixture of oil and water, where neither components can mingle.
How do you aim to reach the BJP target of 175-plus when the BJP has never contested almost half the seats in the last 20 years?
It is not the BJP alone which will have to find candidates for all 243 constituencies. We have alliance partners too. Moreover, the BJP is organisationally very strong in all the 243 seats. We have our booth-level committees in all panchayats; wherever we found that our candidates were not strong, we encouraged leaders of standing to join our party. Our alliance partners also have a strong presence in many constituencies.
In the face of the emerging development, do you see former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi as an NDA partner?
Undoubtedly, Jitan Ram Manjhi has emerged as a major factor in Bihar politics. We had also supported him during his vote of confidence. But so far, he has not made any formal proposal to join the NDA. We will consider in case he approaches us.
Now that the JD(U) and RJD combine has declared Nitish Kumar as its chief ministerial candidate for the assembly elections, do you personally feel the BJP should also announce its CM candidate before the polls?
It is not a question of my personal feelings, rather it is for the BJP parliamentary board to take a call on the issue. However, I am yet to come to a conclusion on whether it would be wise for the party to project its CM candidate before the polls.
But then why is the BJP parliamentary board hesitant to do so when it had projected Narendra Modi’s name as the prime ministerial candidate much before the Lok Sabha elections?
Our rivals have just declared the name of their CM candidate. That does not become binding on us. There is sufficient time to take a decision on the issue. However, strategies vary from state to state. If something is good for Haryana, it may not necessarily be good for Bihar. Tactics, timing, politics do matter as do the turf.
It is said there are many CM aspirants in your party and it is apprehended that projection of one candidate would cause bickering and that is the basic reason why the BJP leadership is delaying an announcement?
I don’t deny the fact that there may be several CM aspirants in our party, and this is but natural. All those who worked for the party for years and remained legislators for a longer period have all the reasons to be ambitious. But, as far as I know, this issue never came up before the party.
Do you think the caste factor will decide the CM candidate?
I don’t think so. The emergence of leaders for such posts is always spontaneous.
Do you think that the JD(U)-RJD pact will continue until the assembly polls?
Yes, the alliance will not break, for it is the question of survival of both Lalu and Nitish.
How will the NDA manage to get minority votes, particularly the Muslims, who have a sizeable population in most constituencies?
In the last 20 years, the BJP has never been considered an anti-Muslim party. Though they don’t vote for us in large numbers, they are convinced we have never discriminated against them. I am confident that a sizeable section will consider us to vote for.
What hurdles does your party face going into the polls?
With Nitish Kumar as chief minister, the entire police machinery would be used against us. So, we expect the election commission to play a major role.