‘Varun’s statement violated morality’

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All sections of people know our secular credentials  

Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav takes pride in his socialist lineage going back to Ram Manohar Lohia. Although for more than a decade his party has been in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and currently runs a coalition government with it in Bihar, he swears by the JD(U)’s “secular” credentials.

The JD(U)-BJP alliance will do well, and not only because of the divided Opposition — the Congress has failed to come together with the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Jan Shakti Party alliance — but also because of the performance of the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, he says. NEENA VYAS spoke to him

Varun Gandhi has openly said what BJP leaders privately say. What does this say about your party, which has an alliance with the BJP?

The BJP is a different party with a different ideology. In an era of coalitions, we have an alliance with the BJP. I do not hesitate to say Varun’s statement violated every kind of morality. The Election Commission was right in asking the BJP not to give him a Lok Sabha ticket. But, I would also like to add that all kinds of persons in different parties who do not deserve to be in Parliament have been given tickets.

Will the Varun Gandhi episode push Muslims away from the JD(U)? They voted for Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister, but will they vote for L.K. Advani to be Prime Minister?

Why only Muslims? All sections of people will vote for us on the basis of what we have done. We have talked about the need to give Dalit Christians and Muslims reservations — the BJP may not agree, but we stick to this. All sections of people know our secular credentials.

Will the JD(U) remain with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance post-elections under all circumstances or …?

What is the point of asking questions about the future? We have been with the NDA, we are with it, we are fighting the election as part of the alliance.

Yours is a relatively small party, yet you are unable to maintain unity in the JD(U). Two senior leaders — George Fernandes and Digvijay Singh — are threatening to contest as Independents.

It is not correct to say that we did not want to give George ‘saab’ a ticket. It is a question of his health. And I announced that we will bring him to the Rajya Sabha. A Lok Sabha MP represents some 17 lakh voters. We have a duty to the electorate. How can we give a ticket to a man who will not be able to discharge that responsibility because of ill-health?

There was talk about a year ago of the entire Janata Parivar, all the erstwhile socialists, coming together once again in a grand alliance. Lalu Prasad (RJD), Mulayam Singh (SP) and Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) have made a bid to set up a sort of fourth front. Could your party ever join this group although the JD(U), the RJD and the LJP are obvious rivals in Bihar?

Some attempts were made, but these were not successful. The time has not come. All of them left this party, went outside and set up their own political parties. It boiled down to a clash of personalities. They wanted to build parties around their families. I am alone. I have not encouraged any of my family members.

My party’s long-term strategy is to implement the old socialist ideas, which Lohia and Jai Prakash Narayan believed in. Our government in Bihar has given 50 per cent reservation to women in panchayats. We ensure representation of the most backward castes and we are sensitive to the minorities.

How severe will the anti-incumbency factor be this time? The Kosi floods destroyed crops and habitation and resulted in loss of lives and great misery for thousands. It was reported the Bihar government failed to take timely action to prevent the floods.

Unfortunately, Nepal was in political transition at the time and repairs on the dam could not be carried out when they should have been despite our effort.

Madhepura, from where I am contesting, was among the worst affected — almost the entire constituency was under water. And yet, I am confident that the people will vote for me.

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