Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad has single-handedly converted RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments on reservation into the most critical election issue in Bihar. From reminding people of Bihar’s feudal past, wherein “ sirf babu log charpai pe baithta tha aur sab zameen par  (only the upper caste had the right to a chair and everyone else sat on the ground), to distributing copies of MS Golwalkar’s criticism of the Constitutional position on right to reservation in  Bunch of Thoughts , the Prasad has steadily worked to turn this election into a “forward-backward” caste contest. In an interview to BusinessLine , Lalu spoke of how caste fault lines have countered communalism in Bihar. Excerpts:

The RSS chief may have repeated his comments on the need to review the reservation policy, but the BJP has consistently denied it is against any such proposal.

Mohan Bhagwat ne apne mann ki baat kah di hai  (Mohan Bhagwat has spoken his mind). You make a mistake when you create these kinds of false binaries – that the BJP has a certain position and the RSS has a different discourse. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is a  pracharak  (RSS full timer). He was projected as national leader because that was what the RSS wanted. He cannot deviate from the ideological line that was formulated, not by Mohan Bhagwat, but their forefathers. Read MS Golwalkar’s  Bunch of Thoughts . You will understand what the Sangh Parivar thinks of the Indian Constitution and BR Ambedkar. You are not dealing with a political party called the BJP. You are dealing with an ideological family that has a civilisational agenda. At the core of this civilisational agenda is the revival of Brahminical domination and reassertion of the hierarchical caste order. We, as proponents of social justice, will oppose these people.

The BJP has fielded a lot of Yadavs and the NDA is a rainbow coalition of Dalit, Mahadalit and OBC leaders. Do you really believe you can use one statement to overtake these tangibles? The fact is that the EBCs, Dalits and Mahadalits voted for Modi in the Lok Sabha elections.

Never make the mistake of transplanting the reality of one election to another. Lok Sabha was a different election where Modi promised the moon to the people and they got taken in. They thought he should be given a chance. But by now people have found him out. They know that behind the façade of development and progress lurks the ugly face of communalism, mob lynching and anti-minority brute force. They cannot fool the people of Bihar the second time.

Do you think that the lynching in Dadri and your subsequent comment on beef-eating among Hindus has created some level of polarisation which will help the BJP?

You see, they have tried. They went on about beef-eating even though the real issue was about an innocent man being lynched to death on some suspicion. And they are masters of creating smokes and mirrors. Now the festive season is coming. There will be Muharram, Dasara, and Durga Puja. These are times of heightened religiosity. We are aware that the BJP/RSS will use these occasions to create further trouble between Hindus and Muslims. But I have been warning people against precisely such manoeuvres.  Log sachet hain. ham yahan danga nahin hone denge. Par yeh log koshish zaroor karega  (people are alert. We won’t let a riot happen here. But they will try). There is a long gap between the second and the third phase. But if they try, you will know that everything else has failed from their side.

Are you campaigning in coordination with Nitish Kumar and the Congress? Or is everyone following a different strategy.

We did one joint rally and from then everyone is following their own trajectory. We cover more ground that way. Nitish Kumar is doing his own thing and I am focusing on my campaign.

What about Rahul Gandhi? You are not campaigning with him.

(Smiles) Rahul Gandhi is waving to the crowds in his own way (does an imitation). The Congress is fighting 41 seats. It’s good for them.

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