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Bihar has witnessed political instability ever since the BJP left the ruling alliance, says Bhupender Yadav. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Bihar has witnessed political instability ever since the BJP left the ruling alliance, says Bhupender Yadav. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

The youth of Bihar want a vision for development: BJP’s Bhupender Yadav

BJP leader says the anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad will work in favour of his party in the upcoming assembly polls

With the Bihar assembly polls set to be held in five phases from 12 October to 5 November, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is gearing up to face one of the toughest electoral battles since its resounding win in the 16th general election last year. Pitted against the Janata Dal (United) led by chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad, the BJP has emphasized development in its campaign. Bhupender Yadav, BJP general secretary in charge of Bihar, spoke to Mint about the upcoming polls. Edited excerpts:

What will be the biggest issues in the Bihar election for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance?

The biggest issue in the Bihar elections is development. People know that in the last 25-year rule of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, they have been cheated in the promise of better law and order, social justice and economic justice. This election is for the aspirations of the people and development possibilities in Bihar. This election is for a change against the 25-year misrule of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.

On paper, your rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad look formidable. How do you plan to counter them?

As far as the (rival Janata) alliance is concerned, Jitan Ram Manjhi, who represents a large section of the financially weaker section of Bihar, has walked out of Nitish Kumar’s team. It is a message for the financially weaker section because they were the strength of Nitish Kumar. Pappu Yadav has left Lalu Prasad’s party. Now, even Taslimuddin (a senior RJD leader) is talking against the grand alliance. Mulayam Singh Yadav has also left the alliance. Above all, Nitish Kumar has contested elections against Lalu Prasad; now they both are together. So, the anti-incumbency against both the leaders will work in favour of the BJP.

This is the first time in the past two decades that the BJP will contest a majority of the seats in Bihar. Does the BJP have the bench strength?

We have been working hard for the last eight months. The BJP has managed to spread its campaign and message for change in all 243 constituencies of Bihar. BJP leaders have carried out Parivartan rallies (for change) in all parts of Bihar.

In the last few months, the BJP has managed to enlist 80 lakh new members in the party, who are also working for the party. The public meetings of PM Narendra Modi have emphatically spread the message of development and for a change of leadership in the state. BJP president (Amit Shah) has also spoken to 62,000 workers, who are part of the polling booth team.

Like Maharashtra, Bihar has been hit by a bad monsoon, and rural distress is a problem. How do you see its impact in the election?

The problems created due to floods in 2008 have still not been solved by Nitish Kumar. The government has also not given compensation to the people who lost their lives and livelihood due to the recent cyclonic storm in Bihar... money has not been paid to farmers for their yield.

The government has not taken any steps to increase electricity production; infrastructure work is pending. Even Nitish Kumar admits that projects have been delayed since 2007. Now, when the prime minister has given a special package, Nitish Kumar is opposing it. People have understood that he is not working for the development of Bihar, but only to remain in power.

The BJP was an alliance partner for eight out of 10 years in which Nitish Kumar has been in power. How does the BJP disassociate itself from the governance in the past decade and attack Kumar on his developmental work?

The vision paper brought out by Nitish Kumar talks about improving the law and order situation in Bihar after he came to power in 2005. So, he admits that there was lawlessness in the state before 2005. There has been a lack of transparency, accountability and institutional failure in Bihar.

The atmosphere for cohesive growth and development of Bihar was brought after the BJP joined the government. People should look at the situation in Bihar before and after 2005. Nitish Kumar ditched the development work and growth atmosphere for his ambition to become the prime minister of the country. Till the time the BJP was in power (as an alliance partner), the chief minister was not changed, which provided stability to Bihar. But after the BJP left power, repeated changes have been made to the post of chief minister.

Nitish Kumar first made Jitan Ram Manjhi the chief minister; then he joined hands with Lalu Prasad; Mulayam Singh Yadav was also part of the alliance, but he is out now.

Bihar has witnessed political instability after the BJP left power. The growth rate of Bihar has fallen. (The arrival of) foreign tourists, especially Buddhist tourists, has seen a decline. Health facilities have declined. The pace of development, which continued for seven years, has been ruined by Nitish Kumar in the last three years.

Like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar is among the states with one of the youngest populations. How will the BJP cater to this section in the polls?

All youngsters aspire for development and better jobs. Even though Nitish Kumar is the chief minister, the real strength of the alliance is Lalu Prasad. The youth have realized that Lalu Prasad doesn’t represent development. There is no agenda of development in the alliance. The speeches of Lalu Prasad are nothing more than rhetoric and some old jokes. But the thought of serious development is missing. The youth want a vision for development, so the obvious choice is the BJP.

Some of the NDA leaders, especially Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi, were publicly demanding more seats. How difficult was it to convince them to not make public statements and wait for a final decision?

It is not a difficult task. Everybody is working hard. Supporters of all political parties want to win more seats; the discussions are fruitful and very soon an announcement will be made.

The NDA has claimed that the mega 1.65 trillion Bihar package announced by Modi is a game- changer for the alliance. How do you explain the criticism the BJP has faced from the chief minister?

The criticism by Nitish Kumar is a sign of defeat. He himself admits that development and infrastructure projects have been pending since 2007. It is a failure of Nitish Kumar if projects have been pending for so long. Bihar has no scarcity of water, the land is fertile, there is biodiversity in Bihar; then why is Bihar lagging in development? Why are there no agro-based industries in Bihar? The power situation has not improved. There can be no social justice in the absence of financial, economic and political justice. Every person should get the opportunity for development and it should not be on the basis of caste and religion.

Why has the NDA shied away from announcing a chief ministerial candidate prior to the Bihar polls?

The strategy changes with every election. In the past also, the BJP has contested elections without announcing a chief ministerial candidate. We didn’t announce a candidate during the Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand polls. This election will be contested as Team Bihar and a final decision will be taken by the parliamentary board.

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