Not the time for polls... Prez rule could be stopgap step: Tejashwi Yadav
Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav says this is not the appropriate time to conduct elections considering the alarming spread of the coronavirus disease.Updated: Jul 13, 2020 04:58 IST
Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s young face, Tejashwi Yadav will encounter his biggest political challenge in the upcoming state assembly polls he has to contest in the absence of his incarcerated father, Lalu Prasad. He spoke about the political landscape in an interview:
Is the ground situation conducive for free and fair polls in Bihar, given the pandemic?
On Covid-19, I have been requesting the government since March that testing be done on a larger scale and the capacity of institutional care be enhanced. However, it fell on deaf ears. The abject failure of the Nitish government in handling the pandemic and the migrant workers issue has led to chaos and insecurity among the people. There seems to be no containment and mitigation strategy in place.
In my opinion, this is not the appropriate time to conduct elections considering the alarming spread of this disease. I will be the last person to have an election on dead bodies. If Nitish Kumar acknowledges that Covid is still a crisis, elections can be postponed until the situation improves but if he thinks Covid is not a problem, elections must be conducted with traditional means of electioneering. Let there be a fair ground for all parties, and allow rallies, door-to-door and full-fledged campaigns. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) are parties of capitalists and have immense resources. (So) restricting the medium of campaign would be antithetical to the very purpose of election in a democracy.
President’s Rule could be a stop-gap interim arrangement if constitutional obligation requires it.
Is the RJD ready to contest if elections are held on time? How prepared are you to reach out virtually to the electorate?
RJD’s campaign will not be about spending big monies. We will enter the election with principled politics that speaks to the marginalised and the poor in a down-to-earth manner. Our campaign will not be a spectacle, it’ll be based on genuine communication of our plans rooted in the aspirations of the people. We shall go to the people with a robust blueprint for transforming Bihar in education, health, agriculture, employment and industrialisation.
The political wisdom of the people from my state is unmatched. They are fed up with the ever-rising corruption, crimes, unemployment, inflation and flip-flops of Nitish ji. Yes, it’s going to be a challenge to switch to virtual canvassing. For poor parties like us and others, who don’t have money to pay for such huge expenditures to counter them, it would be unfair and amount to robbery of democracy and mandate. Sensing defeat, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has started tweaking the rulebook of Election Commission (EC). Postal ballots for Covid patients, virtual rallies and all should be seen in that context.
The RJD-led alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls could win only one seat, and that was in the Congress quota. So there are questions about the combine’s viability.
Parliamentary and assembly elections are two different things. Assembly elections are fought on local day-to-day governance issues concerning the people’s basic needs: education, migration, infrastructure development, job creation, and of course, health.
Despite the machinations at the BJP-JD(U)’s disposal, our alliance will sweep this election. They have pushed Bihar further into backwardness in their 15 years of rule. Everyone in Bihar knows how the mandate was hijacked in 2017 (when Nitish walked out on RJD). The BJP is in power with Nitish ji without any reason and vision.
Some of your smaller allies including Jitan Ram Manjhi have reservations about your projection as the combine’s chief ministerial face. You also have detractors in the Congress’s state unit.
This is not the time to be bogged down with such considerations. We must have credible plans for a historical alternative for Bihar. Democratic politics is nothing without such pushes and pulls. Only a delusional person can think that he has no opposition or no detractors. My eyes and mind are all open. In any alliance, it’s a settled principle that the party having a larger presence is chosen its leader.
How confident are you of keeping the alliance intact?
Consultation and deliberation on seat sharing and common minimum program are underway. I am confident of bringing together a credible, committed and progressive alliance. Anyone familiar with the history of RJD knows that we have a stellar record of building alliances. But it’s important to note that the RJD has been equally comfortable in the opposition.
You recently sought forgiveness for mistakes, if any, during the 15 year rule (from 1990-2005) of your father and mother. Is that your way of reaching out to forward caste communities? The question is pertinent as Raghuvansh Prasad Singh recently quit as vice president of RJD.
No person or regime can be perfect. Our 15 years took governance to the doorsteps of the poor and marginalised. That’s why the people rewarded us for 15 years. I wasn’t around then, still I don’t hesitate to accept shortfalls if there were any.
One needs to understand the history of Bihar which has been a victim of chronic neglect. Laluji and Rabriji privileged social justice in a deeply feudal society. A sense of equality, a possibility of egalitarian governance was communicated to the people.
We are committed to reaching out to all sections of the society. Bihar cannot progress if all communities do not participate. Raghuwansh Babu is a senior leader and a fatherly figure to me. He is there in the party.