By any yardstick, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi made the maximum sacrifice this time to fulfil the NDA's objective of keeping Laloo Prasad Yadav out of power. Modi's supporters had virtually anointed him Chief Minister even when the NDA failed to g et a majority. Sections of the BJP had thought he would be accepted as Chief Minister owing to the fact that the BJP was the largest component of the NDA. However, all these calculations went wrong when the BJP's central leadership decided that only Niti sh Kumar could take on Laloo Prasad Yadav in a hung Assembly. Yet, the BJP's and the NDA's objective could not be fulfilled. Venkitesh Ramakrishnan spoke to Modi after the resignation of the Nitish Kumar Ministry. Excerpts:
With Nitish Kumar's arrival in Bihar, the NDA was confident of proving its majority in the Assembly. What went wrong?
The primary thing was that we were not ready to indulge in the business of buying MLAs. We tried to strike above-the-board political deals with various parties, groups and individual MLAs. We did make some progress with as many as a dozen Congress(I) MLA s, who agreed with us that the election results indicated an anti-Laloo Prasad Yadav mandate. They were ready to cooperate with us and show allegiance to the people's verdict. However, the Congress(I) leadership literally kept them under lock and key dur ing the Assembly session and prevented all outside contact. It is also possible that they were given some blandishment or the other.
But the majority view in the Assembly was that the mandate was against the communal forces led by the BJP?
In this election, the so-called communal politics of the BJP was not an issue at all. There were only two issues: the 'jungle raj' of the RJD and the grant of statehood to Jharkhand. Can the State units of Congress(I) and CPI deny the fact that they foug ht the elections against Laloo Prasad despite their central leadership's desire to support him? Will CPI (ML) say that they will accept Laloo Prasad's proxy rule?
But all these parties see the BJP as a bigger threat...
That was not their position during the election campaign.
There is also the allegation that the NDA misused the office of the Governor somehow to form the government...
It is unfortunate that the Governor's office has been dragged into a controversy. The Governor acted according to his judgment and I feel he took the correct decision. Just because some people do not agree with his judgment, the Governor cannot be brande d as the Central Government's agent.
Your demand to debar Rabri Devi from taking the oath as Chief Minister is considered part of these extra-constitutional efforts...
There is nothing extra-constitutional about it. The charges against Rabri Devi are similar to the ones against Laloo Prasad Yadav. If he had to resign when the CBI charge-sheeted him, the same rule is applicable to Rabri Devi also. That is what we pointe d out to the Governor.
The RJD says that if being charge-sheeted is reason enough to bar somebody from taking ministerial office, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi should also be removed from the Central Government...
Advaniji and Joshiji have been charge-sheeted in a matter that has the dimensions of a freedom struggle. Laloo Prasad Yadav and I were charge-sheeted together in several cases for taking part in the movement headed by the late Jayaprakash Narayan against the Emergency. We were even charged with treason. The BJP did not hold all that against Laloo Prasad Yadav. But corruption cases are a different thing. Once charge-sheeted in a corruption case, you have no business to be in government.
During the confidence motion, you tried to use the Jharkhand issue to generate support for the NDA Ministry. You asked all members from the Jharkhand area to back the NDA Ministry in order to fulfil the objective of a Jharkhand state. How does your p osition differ from that of the RJD now that Laloo Prasad Yadav has also accepted the demand for a separate State?
Laloo Prasad Yadav's promises are all false. He has played these tricks with the Jharkhand Mukthi Morcha (JMM) many times. During the campaign, he opposed the idea and now he accepts it. In the interests of political expediency he would change his stance again. We have been consistent in our advocacy of the cause. That is the difference.
You and Nitish Kumar have responded to the induction of the RJD Government with the promise of a mass agitation. Do you not think that this will worsen the law and order problems in the State?
We are fighting against the return of jungle raj and for peace.
But don't you think that your campaign on 'jungle raj' has boomeranged in the elections itself?
You are free to have your interpretations. But for the BJP and the NDA, the verdict is certainly anti-jungle raj and the Congress(I) has betrayed the verdict.