Nitish's NDA return backfired, BJP knows Ram temple not enough to win Bihar: Dipankar Bhattacharya

Asked if the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) could return to the opposition alliance later, he said, “What he has done is suicidal.”

February 24, 2024 05:14 pm | Updated 06:28 pm IST - New Delhi

CPI(ML) Liberation leader Dipankar Bhattacharya. File

CPI(ML) Liberation leader Dipankar Bhattacharya. File | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's move to return to the National Democratic Alliance has "backfired" and the BJP's keenness to get the JD(U) back shows they realised Ram temple was not enough to win the state, CPI(ML) Liberation leader Dipankar Bhattacharya has said.

In an interview with PTI, he claimed that since an alternative agenda centred around poverty and livelihood issues was shaping up in Bihar with the Mahagathbandhan in power, the BJP got scared and pushed to break the alliance.

The CPI(ML) Liberation general secretary also sought to downplay the impact of Ram temple consecration in Bihar's electoral politics, saying people saw that the event was "politicised".

Mr. Bhattacharya claimed that people have been saying that if Lord Ram was enough to win the polls then the BJP would not have needed Nitish Kumar. "Obviously the BJP knows this is not enough." "Ram Mandir will awe people... But the same people devoted to Lord Ram didn't like the politicisation of Ram temple at all," he said and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using the Ram temple inauguration event to launch the BJP's poll campaign.

"This was the very reason why the Shankaracharyas stayed away," he said.

About Nitish Kumar leaving the INDIA bloc, Mr. Bhattacharya said, "Possibly the BJP thought that since the opposition unity started from Bihar... by getting Nitish Kumar back they are scoring a big point." "But I think it has backfired. If there is one politician who is most discredited in Bihar today, it is Nitish Kumar," the CPI(ML) Liberation general secretary said.

"Probably why the BJP was so particular about getting Nitish Kumar back was because they realised a new agenda has started... The caste census, the focus on poverty and reservation... an alternative agenda has started to take shape in Bihar. The BJP was afraid of it and they wanted to stop it," he said.

The Left leader claimed that unemployment is a massive problem in the country as well as in Bihar and 64% of families in the state earn less than ₹10,000 monthly. He accused the BJP of trying to implement the "Uttar Pradesh model of bulldozer raj, repressive government and divisive communal politics" in Bihar.

Mr. Bhattacharya said livelihood issue would be of utmost importance in the Lok Sabha polls and played down the impact of Central schemes such as Ujjwala and PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, alleging their implementation was poor.

"These schemes are also not adequate. People don't need free food. What they need is jobs. Farmers are saying 'we don't need Kisan Samman Nidhi, we need a legal guarantee on MSP'," he added.

Asked if the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) could return to the opposition alliance later, he said, "What he has done is suicidal. I don't see much of his political career left after what he has done." Mr. Bhattacharya asserted the situation on the ground remains in favour of the INDIA bloc and mentioned Tejashwi Yadav's ongoing "Jan Vishwas Yatra" and a march being taken out by his party. "On March 3, we have a Jan Vishwas rally in Patna. This is going to be a very big rally," he said.

He said the opposition INDIA bloc was getting its act together and referred to the firming up of seat-sharing talks in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Goa and Haryana.

"On the ground, things are quite compact and anger (against the government) has only grown. Shubhkaran Singh's death and the way farmers are being treated are building up the anger," Mr. Bhattacharya told PTI.

"INDIA bloc is bouncing back. Nitish Kumar's exit was a bit of an upset and that was the perception. The Congress lost in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan because the INDIA bloc factor did not reflect properly... else, the results would have been different," he said.

Expressing concern over EVMs, the CPI(ML) Liberation leader demanded counting of all VVPAT slips and alleged the government was "not ready for free and fair elections". "There is a basic demand that we go back to ballots. These are machines, can't trust them, especially when you cannot trust the people handling the machine." "We saw what happened in Chandigarh (mayoral polls). If the BJP can go this way just for 36 votes for a mayoral election, imagine what the election machinery could be up to when you're voting for 543 seats," he said.

Amid reports of the CPI(ML) looking at contesting on at least five seats in the Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Bhattacharya said talks are in the final stage and should be finalised before March 3.

He claimed that in the last Lok Sabha polls, there was only a "token understanding" with the RJD. "In the assembly elections, we won 12 seats and we were asked to fight on 19 seats. The Congress contested 70 seats and won 19." "In south Bihar and parts of the north such as Saran, Champaran, and Seemanchal, the alliance between CPI(ML) and RJD worked very well. It is very difficult to speculate a number but there are 40 seats... Last time the RJD left five seats for RLSP and three for Vikassheel Insaan Party. I think the Left should be accommodated reasonably in Bihar and Jharkhand," he said.

Mr. Bhattacharya also highlighted that the alliance between the RJD and the Left led to a rise in the opposition vote share in the 2020 Bihar assembly polls compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

"In 2019, the NDA almost swept Bihar and Jharkhand. By the time assembly elections took place in Jharkhand, the BJP lost power. In Bihar, we came very close to voting out the Nitish Kumar government. I hope that this will be a step forward for us from 2020," he said.

On the Supreme Court scrapping Electoral Bonds, Mr. Bhattacharya said people should take the decision forward by punishing the party responsible for bringing the "unconstitutional" scheme.

"The judgment on electoral bonds was a bit late, but not too little. The money that the BJP amassed through the Electoral Bonds is with them. It is ill-gotten money. What the Supreme Court left unsaid is in people's court now," he said.

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