Interview with Sushil Kumar Modi.
A product of the 1974 student movement whose impact on Bihar politics was substantive, Sushil Kumar Modi is now a Bharatiya Janata Party legislato<15,0m,,1>r and Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly. He knows for sure that he is today politically no match for Laloo Prasad Yadav, along with whom he had led several demonstrations and agitations when the two of them were registered as students of Patna University. Modi, unlike BJP leaders in other States, is hardly passionate about the Hindutva agenda. He is convinced that his party's prospects in Bihar cannot be furthered by resort to Hindutva. Like all others who oppose Laloo Yadav, Modi too harps on the state of development in Bihar. Excerpts from an interview he gave V. Krishna Ananth.
As someone who became active on the political stage in the context of the Jayaprakash Narayan movement, how do you react to the situation in Bihar today?
The situation in Bihar now is worse than what it was in 1974. The last 13 years have witnessed deterioration on all fronts and there is not even a semblance of governance in the State. There has been no development in the industrial sector. The law and order situation has worsened beyond imagination. There have been 40 incidents between January this year and now where the police had to use brutal force and resort to firing on common people agitating for their rights. Take the incident in Asiana Nagar (in January) where the police were involved in killing three young boys for no crime of theirs.
Would you say that the downslide began after Laloo Prasad Yadav became Chief Minister?
Well, the deterioration began in the 1980s when the Congress was in power in the State. What is being witnessed during the decade when the Laloo Yadav-Rabri Devi duo has been ruling Bihar is a movement backwards. It is not just economic stagnation. The State is recording negative growth in all fields.
If this is the situation, then why is it that there is no movement against the establishment, say in the same way as in 1974?
The most important reason is the deterioration on the educational front. The colleges and universities in Bihar were at the centre of the political action in 1974. The present situation is one where these institutions have been decimated in all senses of the term. There have been no elected students' unions in any of the colleges. This has meant that there is no student movement. The 1974 movement was led from the front by students. The movement did not let the political parties dominate its course at any stage. The parties could only join in support of the agitation and that is where the movement drew its strength from. With no scope for any student activity now, the only thing possible is some agitation by parties, and the BJP along with the others in the NDA is engaged in it.
It is striking that your party unit does not speak the same language as in other States: you shy away from raising the Hindutva slogan in Bihar. Why?
Bihar has had a long tradition of popular resistance, and with the Laloo Yadav regime here the only relevant issue before the people is development. There is no space for other issues in Bihar. It is Laloo Yadav's intention to conjure up images of a communal flare-up in Bihar and this he does to keep his Muslim-Yadav combination (the MY factor) intact.
Can you think of building an alternative to Laloo Yadav without internalising the backward caste assertion that he symbolises?
No. The alternative to Laloo Yadav has to be another leader representing the same constituency. This change in the political stable of Bihar is irreversible. The assertion by the OBCs [Other Backward Classes] is here to stay.
In this context, who among the NDA leaders could be projected as the leader of the combine? Do you think the BJP can emerge as the core of the NDA in Bihar?
Nitish Kumar has emerged as the leader of the NDA in Bihar. He was chosen to be the Chief Minister and remains the convener of the NDA here. He will remain the NDA's candidate for chief ministership in the next elections too. And as for the BJP becoming the core of the NDA, there is nothing like the core and the periphery here. The imperative for all those opposed to Laloo Yadav is to put up a united fight and that is what we are determined to do.