‘Ambiguity on prime ministerial candidate must end’

Print edition : May 17, 2013

JD (U) national president Sharad Yadav. Photo: ranjeet kumar

Interview with Sharad Yadav, Janata Dal (United) president.

JANATA DAL (UNITED) president Sharad Yadav is of the view that the projection of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate is only a media hype. He is certain that big corporate houses have played a role in this. He thinks the BJP will take a decision taking into account the opinion of all its leaders and alliance partners. “The BJP is well aware of our views on this matter and they understand what we are saying. We have said nothing new. We have only reiterated the three-point national agenda of governance that was the bulwark of the National Democratic Alliance earlier,” he told Frontline in an interview. He is firm that the BJP should declare its prime ministerial nominee in advance and that “the ambiguity should end”. He also made it clear that there was no question of joining hands with the Congress.

The political resolution at your party’s National Executive meeting makes it clear that you will want the BJP to declare its prime ministerial candidate by December and that the candidate should have secular credentials. This has given rise to the impression that this is a message to the BJP to not make Narendra Modi its prime ministerial candidate.

We have taken no names and whatever is appearing in the media vis-a-vis Modi is media speculation, basically at the behest of big corporate houses. We have merely reiterated our well-established position because the political processes for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections are beginning now. The NDA has a tradition of declaring the name of its prime ministerial candidate in advance. In 1999 and 2004, we accepted Atalji’s [Behari Vajpayee] candidature and in 2009 it was L.K. Advani. So, in 2014, too, the NDA should have a face and since the BJP is the biggest party, they should make it clear at the outset.

Is it right to infer that your insistence on secular credentials is meant to rule out Modi?

We are not taking names, but India is a country of multiple identities, diverse languages, castes and religions. The Prime Minister should be a person of such character that he can carry everyone along, he should follow inclusive politics.

Modi does not follow inclusive politics?

Do not get stuck on one point only. Narendra Modi talks of the Gujarat model of development. We have been working in the tribal areas of Gujarat for many years and are appalled at the abject poverty there. What development are you talking about? In a country like India if you cannot carry everyone along what development can you have?

But the BJP has been projecting the Gujarat model of development for pushing his candidature?

In a huge country like India, there cannot be one model of development. Different States have different resources. An agriculture-based State like Bihar cannot have the same model of development as, say Jharkhand, which is a mineral-rich State.

So what model of development in Gujarat are they talking about? Besides, Gujarat’s development has been made possible because of the water they have got from Madhya Pradesh. Let us not narrow down the discourse about Prime Minister to such low levels. There are larger issues at stake, but the media are trivialising it by focussing on just one individual.

Can we assume that if the BJP declares Modi as its prime ministerial nominee, the JD(U) will walk out of the NDA?

This is a hypothetical situation. We have worked together for 17 years. The BJP has to work at two levels: first reach a consensus within its own party, then reach a consensus in the NDA. Since the party is not going to run the government on its own, the views of the alliance partners should be taken into account and respected, and I hope that will happen.

But you are convinced that the name of the prime ministerial candidate should be declared in advance and not left to be decided until after the elections?

The name should be declared in advance. There should be no ambiguity on this.

There has been speculation in the media about your growing proximity with the Congress, which is said to be wooing you. Is that true?

There is no question of having any proximity with the Congress. If the grant of a special package for Bihar means proximity, then that is in the interest of the State, and there is no politics in it. Politically, we can never join hands with the Congress. This is completely ruled out. And on this there is no difference of opinion between me and Nitish Kumar.

The NDA looks substantially weakened already. Don’t you think that all this speculation about differences between the JD(U) and the BJP is further weakening the alliance and bolstering the United Progressive Alliance’s chances?

It is true that the NDA is weak today. We were 24 parties initially, today there are only four or five. But more will join and the NDA will regroup once again. There is no question of the UPA becoming stronger in any case because the Congress, of all parties, will be the worst loser in the next elections. The misrule of the UPA government will make people throw it out.

The NDA will emerge stronger as the election approaches and people will vote us to power once again because they want development-oriented governance to come back.

The spirit of the resolution was almost a warning to the BJP. What you are saying now contradicts that.

There is no contradiction. We are only reminding the BJP that there is an established format with boundaries, which we had arrived at to work together, and they should keep those boundaries in mind while taking a decision on their prime ministerial candidate.

Since they are the largest party, it is their prerogative to have their candidate as Prime Minister, and we are not interfering with that. But they should keep the criteria in mind while doing so. We have only reminded the BJP of its limits, that is all.