Hailing the “strong leadership” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said the NDA will win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with a “thumping majority” as he termed the opposition unity in the recent bypolls as “short-lived”. Stating that the opposition was in the “weakest position” on the leadership issue, Paswan said he wondered if anyone would accept the leadership of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. “The leadership issue in the NDA is crystal clear and it would fight the 2019 general elections under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he told PTI-Bhasha. The unity or adjustment for one or two seats was easy, but it’s difficult for political parties to accomodate their ranks and leaders for an entire state or the country, he said on the recent bypoll victories of the unified opposition.
The opposition unity in the by-elections will be short-lived, he asserted. Paswan’s remarks come days after he urged the NDA leaders to desist from making off-the-cuff remarks and be “more tactful” during elections, in the wake of the party’s poor showing in the March bypolls in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Paswan, who heads the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), a BJP ally in the NDA, had also expressed concern over some leaders of the ruling coalition at the Centre occasionally making remarks that created an impression of the alliance being against certain sections of the society.
Questioning the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, Paswan asked: “Who will be their leader? Rahul Gandhi ko kya koi neta manta hai (Does anyone accept Rahul Gandhi as a leader)?” Paswan said he foresaw problems of seat adjustments amongst the opposition parties during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “In this situation, if the opposition wants to go ahead for a pre-poll alliance in 2019, what will be its shape? Which party will get what share? Will the SP be ready to accommodate the BSP on 40 parliamentary seats? If so, what share will the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh get?” he asked.
These are the big questions that the opposition needs to answer before it reaches a real unity, Paswan said. He recalled that in UP during the last year’s Assembly elections, the BSP fought all seats and the SP contested all seats in alliance with the Congress, while the RLD fought separately for most of the Assembly seats in the western UP. Similarly, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, all major parties — the BJP, the Congress, the SP and the BSP — fought elections for all the 80 constituencies.
While the BJP with its allies won a total of 73 seats, the SP won five and the Congress could win only two seats in Amethi and Raebareli, he added. “If the big political parties relinquish their traditional seats for their alliance partners, what the reaction of the party workers in those constituencies would be simply unimaginable,” he said. He sought to ask the Congress if it would accept the leadership of a regional party like Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party or Mayawati of the BSP or Mamata Bannerji of the TMC in case the joint opposition did not accept Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.
He said: “I want a strong opposition to be in place for our democracy to be strong. But, unfortunately the talk of the opposition unity is a farce as during the elections there is bound to be a big fight among all the parties on the issue of seat distribution.”
The union minister said he had already made it clear that as of now there is no vacancy for the post of prime minister in the country because NDA would win the 2019 parliamentary elections with a thumping majority. Paswan and Mansukh L Mandaviya, Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, were here on Friday to highlight the four years of achievements of the NDA government.