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I have not spoken to Nitish Kumar in almost a year: LJP president Chirag Paswan

Lok Janshakti Party president Chirag Paswan.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

In an open admission about the discord in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), in Bihar, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Chirag Paswan told The Hindu’s Sobhana K Nair that he had not met or spoken to Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar for a year now. His comments come just two months before the State goes for polls in November.

Your party, in a letter to the Election Commission of India (EC), had urged them to defer the polls, but the EC has maintained that the Bihar Assembly elections will be held as per schedule.

At the end of the day, the Election Commission has to take the call. The number of COVID-19 positive cases are spiralling in the State even when the testing figures are very low, an issue that Prime Minister Narendra Modi too flagged in his meeting on Tuesday. You can’t put the lives of people in danger for elections. In addition, parts of the State are ravaged by floods. Should the limited resources be diverted for elections? What is the Constitutional urgency? Our Constitution provides the alternative of President’s Rule.

19 doctors died of COVID-19 in Bihar, 250 infected: IMA

Remember, the elections are not a one-day affair. We have days of campaigning, public meetings and so on. And on the polling day itself, what if the voters do not turn up because of the pandemic? Democracy is all about people’s participation! Who will be responsible if the pandemic worsens because of the elections? At the end of the day, however, the LJP is ready for polls on all of the 243 seats in the Bihar Assembly elections, whenever they are held.

You have been the biggest critic of Nitish Kumar. Why have you resorted to public criticism in spite of being an ally. Is there no space within the NDA for you to raise these issues?

Exactly, I do not have any space or platform. For a very short period, in 2017, the LJP was a part of the Nitish Kumar government with our then State president Pashupati Nath Paras being minister in the State cabinet. In 2019, he fought the Lok Sabha elections. Since then, despite many requests Nitish-ji did not give us [the LJP] a berth in the Cabinet. When I started the ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’ yatra, the Chief Minister absolutely refused to have any kind of communication with me.

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When was the last time you met Nitish Kumar or spoke to him over phone?

It has been almost a year now. I wanted to convey the feedback that I got from my ‘Bihar First, Bihari First Yatra’ but he refused to answer my phone calls. He has not spoken to me or any leader of my party. He did not respond to any of my letters. I did not know whether he was getting my letters at all. I had no other option but to go public. And these were merely suggestions, not really criticism. For example, every child is taught to dial 100 to reach the police, but in Bihar it doesn’t work. Why should students from Bihar go to Kota coaching institutes to study, when in fact the teachers and even the heads of various coaching institutes there are from Bihar? I have nothing personal against the Chief Minister. But if he doesn’t lend me a ear, then there is certainly a problem.

Many claim that you are working as a proxy of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to keep the JD(U) on a tight leash. And this whole façade of criticising the Nitish government is just a way of cornering more number of seats for LJP in the Assembly polls...

I am an individual and have a brain of my own. My party is in an alliance of the BJP but it has its own ideology and thought process. As for the seat arrangement, let me categorically say — the LJP has not had any meeting on the seat sharing arrangement so far. I do not need to discuss the number of seats because it had already been finalised way back in 2014 when we joined the NDA. We fought on seven Lok Sabha seat and 42 Assembly seats. I am not going negotiate the number of seats year after year. For me, the more important thing this time is to bring a common minimum programme before we go in for elections. It is a matter of concern that the current Bihar government is actually working on the agenda that was drafted by JD(U)-RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal)-Congress Mahagatbandhan (grand alliance). The agenda and vision of every ally in the NDA in the State must be incorporated in this common minimum programme.

Also read | Also read: Bihar Assembly elections | All is well in Mahagathbandhan, says RJD leader Manoj Jha

There was a buzz that the Congress had approached you and that the LJP could shift base to the Mahagatbandhan?

I have my friends across party lines — that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am joining their alliance. I am currently in the NDA. And I have a blind faith in the central leadership of the BJP, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. They listen to my concerns and I can reach them whenever I need, even if our Chief Minister Nitish Kumar does not.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:30:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/i-have-not-spoken-to-nitish-kumar-in-almost-a-year-ljp-president-chirag-paswan/article32336974.ece

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