RJD leader rules out third front, says Nitish not a factor
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad has said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will return to power in 2014 even as he emphasised need for a stable and secular government to deal with ‘internal and external threats.’
Mr. Prasad categorically ruled out the prospects of a third front-led government; accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party of stoking communal fires; and dismissed his principal political rival, Nitish Kumar, as having lost his political base.
In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, at his Tughlak Road residence in the capital, Mr. Prasad said: “The battle for Hastinapur in 2014 will determine whether India will remain intact or get divided. Communal and fascist forces want to establish their rule.”
Asserting that the BJP under Narendra Modi would not succeed, he said that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rise to power happened ‘at a different time.’ ‘He was liberal and they got the plus votes. Now, the person Atalji disliked is being projected as the party’s face. I was in Rajya Sabha in 2002, and we agreed to impose President’s Rule in Gujarat. Even Atalji had internally agreed. But L.K. Advani protected him. Now the pupil has betrayed the master.” Mr. Prasad also claimed that the BJP was an ‘effigy,’ and the real force was the RSS, which ‘created hatred against minorities.’
On the recent incidents of communal tension in Bihar, the former chief minister chief said, “The BJP, when in power in a State, does not do riots. But in Opposition, it incites tensions. Now they are working day-and-night to communalise the Hindu vote in their favour.” In the 15 years his party governed Bihar, there was not a single riot, he added.
‘I am with Congress’
In order to stop ‘such forces,’ Mr. Prasad said ‘secular forces’ must and would come together. “If it does not happen before elections, it will happen post-polls. This is the need of the hour. UPA 3 will be back based on a minimum common programme.” To deal with both ‘internal conspiracy’ and ‘external threats’, he said a ‘stable government’ was necessary. While emphasising that regional parties would play an important role, he rejected the possibility of a third front government. “Our experience with this has been bitter.”
At a time when there is speculation about how alliances will shape up in Bihar, especially who Congress would choose to go to the polls with, Mr. Prasad was clear of his political intent. “My firm opinion and my mind is to go with the Congress.”
The former Railway Minister has a picture of himself with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in his drawing room. He was one of her most vocal supporters at the time when she was under attack for her ‘foreign origin,’ and the two are known to share a ‘warm relationship.’ When asked if this extended to her son, the RJD chief said, “Soniaji is a great leader. I meet Rahulji also. The Congress has many intelligent leaders and I am sure they will take the wise decision.”
‘Nitish is finished’
Mr. Prasad said Mr. Nitish Kumar was not a ‘factor.’ He claimed that at their peak, the Janata Dal (United)-BJP alliance had got 39 per cent votes. ‘The disillusionment with Nitish’s sarkar, the corruption, the anger against the bureaucracy has already eroded that vote-share. And now with this divorce, the size of both parties will shrink.” The Chief Minister’s development claims were false, and Bihar’s growth happened because of transfer of Central funds during the UPA rule.
The RJD is calculating that it will benefit from the intense battle between the JD(U) and the BJP on the ground, especially if it can patch together a broader understanding with the Congress and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party. It expects its core base of Yadavs to stick to the party, and will play up Mr. Kumar’s association with the BJP to keep the Muslims with them.
“Nitish was with the BJP, and is deceiving minorities. He can go back to the BJP in the future also,” said Mr. Prasad. Upper castes, other RJD leaders suggest, had turned completely against Mr. Kumar and their desire to defeat him would help the party.
But the game-changer could well be the fodder-case judgment, expected in September, where Mr. Prasad stares at the possibility of conviction. If the court delivers an adverse verdict, there will be implications for his party, the State’s politics, and his dream of a ‘secular alliance.’ Mr. Prasad chose not to comment on the matter.