Communal violence in Bihar his seemingly pitted the Bharatiya Janata Party against their alliance partners in the state, the Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party. News18’s Alok Kumar speaks to RLSP chief and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha about the NDA’s turbulent month, the political situation in the state and the way forward for the alliance.
The last one month has been very turbulent for the NDA. From Communal violence in Bihar to the recent brutal rape and murder incident in Kathua and allegations of rape on a BJP MLA in UP. Do you think BJP was responsible for it?
No one can deny the fact that such incidents occurred and those were unfortunate. However, the agitation over SC/ST issue was spontaneous. No political party initiated it. In Kathua and Unnao, there was delay in taking action. If an incident happens and a public figure is involved, then people expect early action. No doubt that message has gone wrong and I will suggest BJP to act swiftly here after.
Be it the delay in arrest of Arjit Shashwat or communal violence in Bihar, do you think BJP being the largest ally should have been more responsible?
Whatever has happened in Bihar was the fallout of its own making. BJP and its leaders kept saying that allegations were wrong. On the other hand, administration had a different story. Overall, yes, I feel BJP should have been more responsible.
Do you think NDA has weakened?
All depends on public perception and perception is that governments were lackluster in their approach. This is visible. The BJP has to take its share of blame. Once the message is gone, people tend to make perception. No one can stop that.
Was there delay in filing review petition against the SC order in SC/ST case?
See, it’s right that if early decisions had been taken, situation would not have gone so far. However, it was not deliberate. But delay has its own repercussions. Dalits are still being tortured, and for safeguarding their rights, the government should go an extra mile. I am in favour of including this Act in the 9th schedule of the Constitution.
Is this true that non-BJP allies are rallying around Nitish Kumar to create a pressure group?
We are not thinking of putting pressure. Any party having commitment for social justice should come forward. If the government is our own, then we should raise our concerns, and the same has been done by Ram Vilas Paswan, me and Nitish.
Do you think there being no forum like a coordination committee is creating problem in the NDA?
On national level, our PM keeps taking initiatives. However this is not the case in Bihar. There are confusion due to communication gap. There must be such mechanism in place. At this day there is no such thing in place and we are in election year. Many a times we fail to take a decision which should have been taken earlier, particularly in election time.
What will you say about your differences with Nitish Kumar? Do you accept his leadership?
I never had any personal problem with him. But yes, there has been differences over few issues related to public interest and it might have created confusion. I had even attacked Nitish when there was a talk that he might jump the ship and return to NDA last year. I had said any boat would sink if Nitish rides on it. One can ask me about that now. But there is a sharp difference now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at the helm of the boat we are riding. So there is no danger now. NDA is not in isolation in Bihar. Narendra Modi is the leader.
Did anyone in the coalition consulted you when in an overnight turn of events Nitish formed the government with BJP?
I am telling you honestly. I was not aware. I was surprised also. Not because of Nitish’s return but the way it happened. No one talked to me regarding new cabinet formation. I think BJP and JD (U) decided themselves.
Jitan Ram Manjhi has left you alliance. Has it impacted NDA?
Definitely. I can’t deny that but we are trying our best to mitigate that. I think situation will be different by 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
After JD (U)’s return to NDA, smaller allies might get less seats in Lok Sabha. Does it bother you?
We will demand more than three seats we fought in 2019. Our party base has increased manifold. Many leaders have joined us. However, there is no talk on seat sharing right now. We all are preparing. We are strengthening our organisation on every seat. It will only help the NDA candidate. So all are preparing for all the seats but seat sharing would be finalized at the later stage.
Some political analysts say after Manjhi you could be the next leave NDA and join Lalu Yadav’s camp, you met him as well.
Yes, I met Lalu ji. He is a senior leader of the state. He has contributed a lot for the people. Though for some reasons he faces criticism also. Despite that he is an important figure. He was ill and I went to see him. If people are talking about it, let them speak.