Union steel and fertilizer minister Ram Vilas Paswan wants to lead the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in Bihar and has also come into the open with his prime ministerial ambitions.
“I want to lead Bihar now. I can and I will lead the UPA to power in Bihar,” he told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
Throwing a challenge to Union railway minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Laloo Prasad Yadav, who led the UPA in Bihar in the 2004 Lok Sabha Elections and the 2005 Assembly elections, he said: “My good friend Lalu Prasadji has run the full course. It’s time I lead the UPA in Bihar and if given the chance, the country.”
Paswan, who is also president of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), visualises the RJD as a junior partner in the proposed alliance. “That is the need of the hour. The Congress should tie up with my party first before entering into an alliance with the RJD,” he said, adding he had held four rounds of talks with senior Congress leaders on this.
Paswan’s party won 14 per cent of the votes in the 2005 Assembly elections. The LJP had contested the polls in alliance with the CPI against both the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the UPA. Though his party won only 10 seats, the division of votes between the UPA and LJP enabled the Nitish Kumar-led NDA to romp home with 143 seats in the 244-member Bihar house.
Earlier, his support for the NDA in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls and the UPA in the 2004 elections had ensured victory for these two combines, respectively.
Not having the LJP on its side can critically impact the UPA’s plans of winning a majority of Bihar’s 40 seats. It is this knowledge, perhaps, that has emboldened Paswan to pitch himself as the “only” alternative to Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in the state.
He has handed over a list of candidates for 20 Lok Sabha seats. But the RJD wants to give him no more than 12. The Congress has also staked its claim to 18 seats.
“The people of Bihar have seen the Lalu-Rabri regime and Nitish Kumar’s so-called “sushasan”. There is hardly any difference between the two. People want a change and there is a discernible tilt towards the LJP this time,” he said.