HT Interview| Despite minor differences, INDIA bloc partners together: RLD chief
Jayant Chaudhary says his party’s “relations with the SP are as good as could be between blood relations”
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president and Rajya Sabha member Jayant Chaudhary was here to attend the party’s state executive meeting on Saturday to discuss, among other things, the issues related to the 2024 Lok Sabha pollsIn an exclusive interview with HT, he spoke on various issues right from recent assembly polls and differences among the INDIA bloc partners to the issue of Harit Pradesh. Excerpts:
The BJP made a clean sweep in all the three Hindi-heartland states that went to the assembly polls recently. Your take.
The assembly results in MP (Madhya Pradesh), Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are certainly a setback to the INDIA bloc though the BJP won only by a narrow margin as far as vote share is concerned. So, there was no problem with our approach. It is just about managing the last mile of elections.
What do you exactly mean by managing the last mile?
It only means getting all coalition parties on board and speaking in the same voice.
Do you mean to say there was lack of coordination among INDIA bloc partners?
Definitely yes. I strongly feel the Samajwadi Party (SP) should have been given a fair share in MP and more seats should have been given to us (RLD) in Rajasthan. And all should have actively campaigned against the BJP in one voice.
INDIA bloc also needs to increase the number of political players, even if smaller ones, that are engaging with us.
After results also, differences are surfacing in the INDIA bloc partners?
Of course, there will be differences in terms of why we lost, what were shortcomings etc. That is all. Collectively, we have space to express differences and small dissent that we may have and there is nothing wrong with it.
You must also appreciate that the NDA has held no meeting since assembly results while the INDIA group is having meetings regularly. Every morning, our floor leader meeting is conducted by Congress president M Mallikarjun Kharge with leader of all other alliance parties attending the meeting.
But many INDIA bloc partners are blaming Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the debacle in three states. Are you also on the same page?
No, I do not agree with this theory. Instead of blaming EVMs, we must identify our faultlines and then act accordingly for the desired results in 2024.
So will the RLD continue to be an INDIA bloc partner, or can there be some rethinking after recent poll results?
Despite minor differences that we might have, we all are working for a common cause that (is to) stop the BJP from coming to power in 2024. The RLD will continue to play a leading role enabling the INDIA group to take things to a logical conclusion. Today, in the state executive meeting, I urged party workers to ignore petty issues for a larger unity of the INDIA bloc. I also told them that contrary to rumours intermittently, the RLD would continue in the INDIA group only while taking care of their (RLD workers) interests at the same time.
Your giving a miss to the INDIA group’s meeting in Patna in June and your absence from the Rajya Sabha on the day of crucial voting on Delhi Bill in August raised doubts in many minds.
On both occasions I had to be absent for unavoidable personal reasons. The rumours had no substance at all.
There are often reports about all not being well between the Samajwadi Party and the RLD. Is there really some tension between the two partners?
Absolutely not. Our partnership is going strong. Our relations are as good as could be between blood relations and we will fight together against the BJP in 2024.
How many seats are you targeting in U.P. in 2024?
I would not like to get into it because that would give the impression that I am trying to bargain with the alliance partners. Moreover, the INDIA group is yet to discuss the seat-sharing issue.
A BJP minister recently publicly advocated the cause of Harit Pradesh? Your comment.
The BJP is in power both in the state and at the Centre. Its leaders and ministers cannot speak in different voices on such an important issue. But they are doing exactly the same and this only shows their seriousness.
Harit Pradesh was the RLD’s pet issue but, of late, the party has stopped raising the demand for a separate state (in western Uttar Pradesh). Why so?
Because the RLD is in an alliance and alliance partners may have a different stand on this controversial issue.