No! In politics the issue is not of stature but numbers. Secondly, if I wanted to become CM, I could have in 1990, when VP Singh asked me to. He wanted to see me as even prime minister. I said no. Lalu Prasad had also won that year but I was the only minister, that too a Cabinet minister, from Bihar at the Centre. Singh wanted a Dalit to be CM.
If NDA projects you as CM, it can rally behind you Dalit and Muslim votes along with BJP votes…
The point here is whether I should be CM. Even Nitish Kumar had come to me twice in the past to say, “you become CM.” This was when the keys to the government were in my hands. During the seven-day government (in 2005) of Nitish Kumar, everybody from George Fernandes to LK Advani to Sharad Yadav to Yashwant Sinha and I were there. Atalji said to me that if a government has to be formed and run in Bihar then Paswan should run it. I had pleaded with him to let me remain in Delhi. Kumar came to me twice in 2005 asking me to become CM. There is no question of I becoming CM.
But is it not true that BJP does not have a leader of stature in Bihar?
You make anybody the CM, his stature will increase. I have already said the chief minister issue is for BJP to decide. By BJP, I mean Narendra Modi. He is the prime minister and leader of the NDA. Whomever he wants to project as CM candidate — whether before elections or after elections — it is up to him.
Will Bihar elections be fought in the name of Narendra Modi?
LJP will contest on its agenda and under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
Do you think NDA should declare its CM candidate before polls?
I cannot say anything on this issue. BJP has several resources through which it can gauge whether it should declare a CM candidate before or after polls. But don’t you think declaring CM candidate before polls is beneficial? Till now, assembly elections have been fought in the name of Modi, be it Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana…
What about Delhi?
In Delhi, Modi had stepped aside towards the end. Then Kiran Bedi’s name had come up. So I have nothing to say. Our senior NDA partner BJP is the best judge on this. There are indications that Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP wants to contest around 40 seats.
How many seats does LJP want to contest?
We will talk about this once the polls are declared. Bihar is not a new place. Leaders of all parties are visiting every nook and corner of the state. We will sit and decide once polls are declared on each constituency. The most important thing is strength the three parties have together. The LJP vote is intact while votes of all others are divided. An LJP voter does not think secular/non-secular. S/he only looks at its leader. Votes of Nitish and Lalu are divided. Yadavs do not see its future with Lalu. He, Rabri Devi or their two sons will not become CM. Rabri Devi lost polls from both seats she contested. Misa Yadav too lost. Nitish has no votebank left. Both Mahadalit and MBCs have deserted him. Which party do you think will secure the Dalit and Mahadalit vote this time? Dalit vote will not be divided at all. If Jitan Ram Manjhi comes to NDA, then Mahadalit votes will also remain intact. Even otherwise, 90 per cent of Mahadalit votes are with NDA. We also have leaders in NDA from Manjhi’s caste (Musahar community).
Do you have objections to Manjhi joining the NDA?
No, I have no objections. If he joins NDA, it will be a plus point for us, there is no minus.
But will not LJP be forced to concede some seats to Manjhi’s party?
Our main aim is not seats. This is a life and death fight. Everybody should think of this and all parties should aim for a two-thirds majority. Which party will contest how many seats is immaterial though all parties will want to contest maximum number of seats.
Why should this election be a matter of life and death?
The media has been highlighting the Janata parivar merger. For the last six months this merger has not taken place but it remains a headline everyday… If you want to have a merger, do it. We know this merger is not going to happen. They call themselves Socialist. Only Mulayam Singh Yadav was there during Ram Manohar Lohia’s time apart from me.
How much will the drought be an issue?
It is definitely going to be an issue. The Centre has issued relief to Bihar but it has not reached the people. I was in Bihar yesterday and asked people but they said they have received nothing… Even the land acquisition act will benefit the state but JD(U) and RJD are opposing it. There is not even a needle factory in Bihar. If land is taken from a farmer and he gets four times the price, he can buy land elsewhere and save part of the compensation as well. Acquisition of land for building infrastructure will help the people.
Who do you think has been a better CM, Lalu Prasad or Nitish Kumar?
I think both are bad. One harmed the state for 15 years and the other for ten years.
There is no comparison between 2010 and 2015. Such comparisons have no meaning. In 2010, there were talks on how many seats my party would contest. He had even grabbed the Congress share of seats in both assembly and general elections.