Translated and edited excerpts of the intervention made by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during the debate on the confidence motion moved and adopted by the Bihar legislative assembly on Wednesday
Why did things come to such a pass? Today they [the Bharatiya Janata Party] are sitting in the Opposition, but they have walked out of [the House] after having had their say. I had asked them to listen to us too. This is an example of their weakness. Discussions and debates are a part of democracy, but they chose to leave.
The reason why we took this step [to end our alliance] is clear. When the proceedings of the House began, the slogans they raised [‘The leader of the country should be someone like Narendra Modi’] gives enough reason...
In 2005 and 2010, the NDA won by a huge majority. The definition of [a] mandate can differ. The mandate received was for the work done in Bihar. We used to speak of Bihar’s achievements. Our friends felt great difficulty and started to criticise my articulation. I want to ask, when I used to present the achievements of Bihar’s coalition government, how could it be construed as being against someone? They had no pride in Bihar, in Bihar’s ‘asmita’ or in the work done in Bihar.
We only said that Bihar’s model is inclusive, which has affirmative schemes for the backward classes. We brought together everybody — Hindu, Muslim, upper and lower castes, Dalits, Mahadalits, Adivasis and women. This was construed as being critical of someone. Why did anyone have any objection to it?
We said a leader of the country should bring everyone together. They harbour the misconception that one party will form the government [at the Centre]. When we praised Atalji’s reign, that too was misconstrued as being an antagonistic stand against someone.
In the House today, they were not raising the slogan of Bihar or [the BJP’s State leader] Sushil Kumar Modi. This is exactly what hurt us. This was outside intervention.
There is talk about a “wave.” I don’t know which wave they are talking about. If there is one, it has been kicked up by the corporate world. But this is the usual technique, to repeat rumours, to spread falsehoods. Let us understand that this is a temporary phenomenon that cannot stand before the will of the people. The country will not be influenced by this propaganda.
Diversity needs oneness
Our country is so diverse in terms of lived culture, language, food habits. You need to take everyone together. The RSS made a statement that they will follow Hindutva ...
We said the person who leads the country should be secular, should have a vision of inclusive growth. This country was constituted under a Constitution whose basic values, egalitarianism, pluralism and inclusiveness, together form what we call Bharat ka darshan or the idea of India. The question before us is: will the constitutional vision triumph or will we surrender to the ideology of division and polarisation? But let me promise you: we will never allow the politics of division to destroy this country. The people of this country will not tolerate it.
There is only one idea that can go forward in this country and that is the Idea of India. If the other vision succeeds, the country will disintegrate and the Idea of India will collapse. India cannot be destroyed; we will not allow it to be destroyed.
We do not intervene in internal matters. Today, they [the BJP leaders] are playing a 2003 CD. In my speech I had also said that what happened in Gujarat was a blot on the country. What was the slogan in the 2005 elections in Bihar? Slogans of ‘a new Bihar’ were associated with my name. Why was some other State associated with it? In the 2010 election, why did they not call people from outside? In June 2010, the alliance was on the verge of collapsing. During the Kosi floods, many governments helped us. It is our tradition to help. But I was hurt from the publicity [for the aid from Gujarat]. Thousands of crores were spent on Kosi relief, so what’s Rs.5 crore? Our self-respect was hurt. So I returned the money. Other States helped us too, but they did not garner publicity from it. What kind of culture is this? That time the situation could be saved.
Today, a particular model is being imposed on us. They [the BJP] keep praising that model, but they hesitate to praise the Bihar model. What development do they talk about [in a State where] the minimum wage is Rs.100? In Bihar it is Rs.162 and the same rate will be given under MGNREGA as well.
I thank the secular parties for supporting the motion... The Prime Minister too spoke about me and I thank him. The CPI especially said this is a secular government. Although they have one legislator, the CPI is a strong party in Bihar...
They [the BJP] didn’t call him [Narendra Modi] [to Bihar] in 2005 or 2009 or 2010. But they knew we could get votes on our strength. Yes, we benefitted from the alliance, but then there was an attempt to impose. That is not fair. Those who cannot respect elders are accusing us of betrayal. What did they do with Advani? What had Atalji said? He advised them to adhere to ‘raj dharm’.
Before forming a government at the Centre [with the BJP] we had put a clear condition that this divisive agenda will not work. Contentious issues were excluded. In 1998, when we came together, it was decided that there won’t be any discussion on Article 370, a uniform civil code and Ayodhya.
In 1999 the NDA prepared a National Agenda for Governance under the leadership of Atalji. That’s why we came together, after keeping the controversial issues aside.... We came together when there was a consensus on the agenda for governance. What’s happening today is going against it...
We asked them to decide a candidate. We were given assurances. Our stand was clear from the beginning. We had no problem with sticking to Atalji’s path. But they furthered controversial issues and controversial persons. In the absence of an assurance, we read the writing on the wall... We were left with no alternative. So we took this step.
They are playing the OBC card these days. You need sympathy and sensitivity to be a leader from the OBC. An OBC-born cannot be a leader after being trumped up on corporate goodwill. You have to work for the OBCs before being deemed their leader. It’s not a question of birth, but the work you do.
In the 14th Lok Sabha, I argued for the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Dalit category, but I was criticised for it. This is the peculiarity of the country that a person can change his religion but his caste doesn’t change! But the BJP opposed me.
Whose caste are they talking about? I worked for the welfare of Mahadalits. Earlier, the RJD played caste politics, but today [the BJP] does it too. So where is the development [agenda]? The country won’t be carried away by a corporate-generated wave. It will only go for secular thinking, development with justice and inclusive growth. We won’t let the Indian ethos be damaged.
You need 272 MPs to form a government. They would not have had the number [in 2014] even if we stayed in the alliance. The maximum they would have reached was 200. By themselves, they will get much less. This is the era of coalition politics. We should not live under an illusion.