Lok Janshakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan is optimistic about his party's chances in the Bihar assembly election. He sees the Rabri Devi-led Rashtriya Janata Dal government making way for an alternate secular alignment, which would include the LJP and the Congress.
In a brief conversation on the Delhi-Patna flight, he shares his thoughts with Senior Copy Editor Salil Kumar.
How do you see the election playing out?
The situation in Bihar is simple. The Lok Janshakti Party and Congress will together form the government.
In the last 15 years, the chunauti (challenge) that Lalu Yadav used to get was from the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) or the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). Because of that, the minority vote went to the RJD. The anti-Lalu vote will now shift to the LJP. The minority vote will also shift. This will affect Lalu badly.
Also, the Yadav vote, because of which Lalu used to form the government, would go to Yadav candidates this time. They will not vote along party lines.
You are making it sound very simple. Such predictions have been made several times in the past.
The Bihar mathematics is easy. Bihar is not a communal state; it is a casteist state. In the past few years there has been no communal violence here.
The general trend is anti-incumbency. The LJP has become a focal point now.
People also want to know who can run Bihar. Earlier there were not many choices. But now there are three: Lalu, Nitish Kumar, Paswan.
The upper castes are not pro-NDA or pro-BJP. They are anti-Lalu. In this election the BJP will suffer the most.
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Lalu managed to hang on earlier.
See the vote combination. It is only because of the Congress that he managed to hang on. Earlier the Congress had no option. We were with the NDA. Now the NDA is divided. The Samata Party has moved away from the NDA.
There was no alternative earlier. Now there is an alternative.
As for the LJP, earlier they said I was cutting the NDA's vote. Now they say I am cutting Lalu's vote.
You earlier said it is a question of who can run Bihar. Can anyone?
Till there is breath, there is hope. People laugh when they hear Lalu asking for five more years. They want an alternative. The last time the NDA was quiet on the leadership issue. This time there are people.
What is your take on the recent increase in the abductions of children?
The situation is grim. We have lost some of our leaders to guns. Our ex-MP Ranjit Singh was attacked. Some say even kids are being attacked.
There is no law and order in the state. If you have criminals in the government, this is what will happen.
Had there been any other party in power, it would have been shaken by such incidents. Here it is taken for granted.
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What are the things that Bihar needs critically?
Everything. Everything needs care. Development, law and order, corruption, there is no education.
Bihar was never in a good shape.
See, from 1967 to 1990 no government or CM could remain in power for 5 years. But back then people at least knew they could change the government when they wanted. Now corruption is not an issue and the party to be blamed for that is the BJP. The BJP divided the country. On the one hand are secular forces and the other hand are communal forces.
Till 1989 people did not come to the communal point. In 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished, the minorities felt physically scared.
It was a coincidence that Lalu was in power at that time in Bihar. So the minorities had no option but to vote for him.
If Delhi had a BJP sarkar (government), if the BJP was powerful in Bihar, it would have been different. They know now that the BJP has no future.
You talk of the Babri Masjid, but you were a Cabinet minister in the NDA government.
I have never tried to hide the facts. There were compulsions. In Bihar people still want to get rid of Lalu. If Gujarat had not taken place I might have still been with the BJP and might not have parted ways with them after the election.
Photograph: Ashok Vahie | Design: Uday Kuckian