Nitish Kumar says, BJP does not have a strong base in Bihar; no neck-to-neck race

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Published: October 29, 2015 10:49:22 AM

With the Bihar Assembly elections entering the final stretch, a confident Chief Minister Nitish Kumar predicted Thursday that he saw no threat to his chances of serving a third consecutive term in office from the opposing NDA...

With the Bihar Assembly elections entering the final stretch, a confident Chief Minister Nitish Kumar predicted Thursday that he saw no threat to his chances of serving a third consecutive term in office from the opposing NDA led by a boisterous Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but was candid enough to accept that there was a political challenge to be faced and taken head-on.

Speaking exclusively to ANI, Kumar on Thursday warned that if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the assembly elections in Bihar, it would do so by default, and this would push the nation into a deep pit.

“If the BJP wins the elections by default, then this nation runs the risk of falling into a deep pit. They (BJP) have done nothing significant in the last 17 months of their rule at the Centre. Neither have they fulfilled any of the promises made during the general elections, nor have they set an example of good governance that can be emulated.”

“All they are focused on is winning the elections in one state, and then, following it with an aim to win in another. They have got the mandate to run the government at the Centre and serve the people, but what they are seeking is absolute power and they are working on the basis of that strategy only,” he added.

Emphatically rejecting suggestions that his Mahagatbandhan Alliance, comprising of the JD-U, RJD and Congress on the one hand, and the BJP-led NDA are running neck-to-neck in the five-phased Bihar assembly elections, the third phase of which ended yesterday with an over 53 percent voter turnout, Kumar said, “There is no neck-to-neck in Bihar. Nothing neck-to-neck happens here. The BJP is trying to create an environment of political hype, and they are experts in boasting. Using this technique, they try to gain publicity.”

He maintained that the BJP enjoyed huge political success in Bihar in the 2014 general elections purely because there was a division of votes between him and the RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

“The BJP does not have a strong base in Bihar. They achieved success in the Lok Sabha elections because of a division of votes between me and Lalu ji. But the situation is different this time around,” he said.

“Only the media is projecting the BJP as being in a neck-to-neck fight with the Mahagatbandhan. The BJP is most definitely demoralised after the first two phases of these elections. We don’t talk about seats, nor is there any talk of an electoral fight. We all know that there is an election taking place and we should compete in it seriously. We should not take our opponents for granted. We should not see or consider them to be weak or strong, and that’s what we are doing,” Nitish said.

It was his apparent rejoinder to BJP president Amit Shah’s recent claim that the NDA would win 32 to 34 seats in the first phase of the assembly elections and around 24 seats in the second phase.

Training his guns directly at arch rival Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government at the Centre, the Bihar chief minister claimed that the former had somehow achieved the goal of forming and heading a government, but was now unable to run or lead the nation.

“Narendra Modi has somehow formed the government, but he is unable to run the nation. You (the BJP) are in majority, so, there is no fear till 2019 (when the next general elections are due). You have formed the government at the Centre, but you are even unable to run parliament,” Nitish said.

“If you are not acting on time, then, you will have to face difficulties and consequences. There is a lot of intolerance in our society at this point in time. Today, numerous writers are forced to return their awards to the Sahitya Akademi. They are very disappointed and sad with the present state of affairs. There is no relief. Whosoever is there in the government is not fulfilling their duties and responsibilities,” he added.

Taking this argument forward, he said one-time key supporters of Narendra Modi like Arun Shourie and Ram Jethmalani were now his strongest critics, and he reasoned that it could be due to the “arrogance” of Modi, who desired centralisation of power, and not rule by consensus.

“Ram Jethmalani and Arun Shourie were supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the general elections last year. But now, why is it that their feelings have changed? Ram Jethmalani came to Patna and held a press conference. He lent his support to veterans fighting for the OROP (One Rank One Pension) and also raised the issue of reservation and black money,” Kumar said.

“Now, Arun Shourie has also launched a stinging attack on the Modi government. People like them, who had put all their strengths to develop the personality of Prime Minister Modi, today, they are criticizing him and his government,” he added.

Shourie, a former BJP leader, had recently contended that Modi belief in managing the economy meant “managing the headlines”, and said that people have now started recalling the days of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Doctor Singh (Manmohan Singh) ko log yaad karne lag gaye hain (People have started recalling the days of Manmohan Singh). The way to characterise the policies of the government is -Congress plus a cow. Policies are the same,” Shourie said at a book launch function recently.

Jethmalani, who was in Patna recently, said the BJP needed to be defeated in the ongoing Bihar elections, as it had “failed” to keep its promise to bring back the black money stashed illegally abroad for evading taxes. He also claimed that he had been defrauded by playing into the hands of Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley.

When it was suggested that rallies organised for the Prime Minister were attracting huge crowds and that Modi’s popularity with the masses remained intact, Chief Minister Kumar retorted that he was of the view that all of Modi’s rallies, or at least a majority of them in his state are “sponsored”.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally, which is being organised by the BJP, is sponsored. They try to gather people from various places. Our campaign is based on public meetings. Our meetings are based on constituencies. Whether it is me or Sonia ji, Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Meira Kumar or our party president Sharad Yadav, the programmes are constituency specific,” Nitish told ANI.

“All of us conduct a lot of public meetings and in various places. So, if we conduct joint meetings, there will be fewer meetings. And if we conduct joint meetings in one constituency, then people from other constituencies will think that they are not significant. This will have and leave a bad impact. That’s why, we avoid joint rallies,” he added.

On him recently copping a lot of flak for seeing and apparently seeking the blessings of a tantric, Kumar countered by asking whether there was proof of him asking the latter to save him from his so-called political enemies, and added that if the BJP was so concerned, they should declare that they are against black magic, and stop accusing him of practicing it.

“These days, Modi ji is meeting so many people, that each and every detail is there on the social media. Why does he meet the Sadhus? Why is he raising the issue of the Ram Mandir? They have accused me of using black magic. So, he and the BJP should first declare that they are against black magic,” he said.

“I never went of my own volition to the tantric. How am I in danger? One of my supporters said to me that he has faith in the tantric and wanted me to see him. I said I am ready to meet him and there is no need to bring him here to Patna. This episode took place one-and-a-half years ago in Patna. He was an ‘Aghod’ and naturally, as expected, spoke in the language of an Aghod. I kept on listening and smiling to whatever he was saying. What they (BJP) have released is an image taken from the mobile phone of one of our MLCs – Neeraj Kumar,” he added.

“Had I gone to see the tantric without anyone’s knowledge, I would have told the MLC not to click the photo. I had no objection and kept on listening to him (tantric).Have you seen me saying something in that footage-that, ‘Baba, I am in a spot of bother, save me and destroy my enemies,'” the Bihar chief minister said.

“I sat there for some time and kept on listening to him. What he was speaking about Lalu ji one-and-a half-years ago, after that only, we (me and Lalu) formed the alliance. What does the BJP want to prove? Can’t we even meet people? I have no objection if an Aghod greets me and showers his love upon me,” he added.

The June 2014 video shows Nitish Kumar being hugged by a tantric who also says ‘Lalu murdabad’.

Residents of the Bhavnauli Mathia village of the Mairwa block in Siwan District have identified the tantric as Baba Birnath Aghori, who had come to the village in 2011 and later settled down there despite their reluctance. They also said that he is a Muslim and belonged to Motipur village in Deoria District of Uttar Pradesh.

During the course of his nearly hour-long interview, Nitish wondered whether Prime Minister Modi’s electoral promise of Achhe Din (Good Days) had gone up in smoke.

“This government has not achieved success on any front, be it international, diplomatic, economic and or social sector. All the promises that they had made in the last 17 months, have not been fulfilled. This government has failed on each and every front. For how long will the people wait for the so called Achhe Din? The people have now been joking that Prime Minister Modi, keep his Achhe Din and return their Purane Din. At least, then we could have our pulses at less than Rs.200 per kilogram,” he said.

“When you (BJP) were asking for the mandate in last year’s general elections, then you were blaming the then government for not taking immediate and appropriate action on the escalating prices of essential items. Now, I am asking that you are in power and what are you doing about it?” he added.

“There is a drought in and around 300 districts. But where are they (BJP or NDA) and are they even concerned about it? What they seemed to be concerned about is how to capture Bihar. It seems to me as if the headquarters of the BJP has shifted from Delhi to Patna. The president of their party (Amit Shah) is living in the Maurya Hotel here. There are so many of their key leaders and representatives here for the polls, when they should be elsewhere fulfilling their responsibilities. They seem to have deployed all the resources at their command here to win at all costs,” the Bihar chief minister said.

“They want to extend their power across the country. The mandate that they got, has led them to believe that they have the nation in their hands. They want to capture each and every state, one by one, in order to attain absolute power,” Nitish said.

He concluded the interview by saying that he has been inspired by the principles of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, and freedom fighters and socialists like Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan, and added that they were his role models.

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