The campaign for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections is well under way, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi having addressed four public rallies as opposed to one by the ruling Janata Alliance. The BJP is enthused by the encouraging response to the PM’s rallies and the debate that has been generated over the special package to Bihar. However, Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav told BusinessLine the BJP has an upper hand only when it comes to greater resources and “money power”. Excerpts:

Sharadji, the PM’s rally in Bhagalpur drew huge crowds and seems to have enthused people…

There is no arguing about the BJP’s resources. They have the money and the infrastructure to collect crowds. Whether Modi enthused them or not is a different issue.

Going by the response, your alliance seems to have a tough fight ahead...

You don’t know the people of Bihar. It is the most intelligent electorate in the country. He (Modi) is coming there and throwing money at us. It won’t work. If money was the criteria, they (the BJP) would have won in Delhi as well.

I would like to ask you as a journalist — have you really paid attention to what he (the PM) is saying? Does it reflect any understanding of the dignity of the office he holds or the Constitution of India?

Let me give you an example. He quoted the Finance Commission and said he, Narendra Modi, will give Bihar ₹3.75 lakh crore. Does the Prime Minister understand that under the Constitution, the Finance Commission has been set up to recommend how tax revenues should be distributed between the Union and the States?

Whose money is he distributing? And who is he to give anything to Bihar or to any other State? I am absolutely amazed at this extraordinary combination of arrogance and ignorance.

You’re saying the BJP’s campaign won’t work just a year after your party was so soundly defeated by the same leader you like to paint as an ignoramus.

Kaath ki handi baar baar nahin chadhti (the law of diminishing returns applies to grandiose promises). Last year’s was a wave election. People got swayed by the tall promises. Enough time has passed for people to realise the hollowness of Modi’s promises. I’d like to mention just one — that he would provide employment to two crore people every year. That means he would have touched the lives of over 10 crore people if you include the families as well. Has that happened?

You have cobbled together an alliance, including the Congress. Given that almost your entire career is based on fighting the Congress, does it not show political opportunism?

Political opportunism applies to those who have given up their ideology. We are committed to the idea of social justice and communal harmony. In that, I consider the BJP to be a bigger enemy now than the Congress. As far as alignment with the Congress is concerned, was it not supporting Gowda (HD Deve Gowda-led United Front Government)? History does not move in straight lines — it curves and bends.

There are reports that the social base of the socialists is collapsing, that the Yadavs are moving away from Lalu Prasad and the EBCs (extremely backward castes) from JD(U)…

The poor have consolidated behind us. No one is moving. This is all BJP propaganda.

Is the Patel agitation going to make any impact on Bihar?

The Patels in Gujarat were the biggest opponents of reservation. Beyond the prism of reservation, you should look at it as a reflection of the kind of skewed development that has taken place in the model State called Gujarat. Even a prosperous community like the Patels is feeling the brunt of large-scale unemployment.

comment COMMENT NOW