Interview: Lalu Prasad

‘Modi has been exposed thoroughly’

Print edition : November 27, 2015
Interview with Lalu Prasad.

Lalu Prasad was confidence personified when Frontline met him four days before the announcement of the results. Even before one could settle down for the interview, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president posed a question: “You have also been travelling in Bihar for many days, what’s your tally?” When one told him that the estimate for the Grand Alliance was upwards of 140, he responded by saying, it was much, much more. Of course, Lalu Prasad has been proved right by the results, with the RJD emerging as the single largest party. Excerpts from the interview:

BJP leader Arun Jaitley has listed five reasons that assure the NDA a victory in Bihar. These include the popularity and credibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the opportunistic nature of the Grand Alliance with the respective deficiencies of the parties in the alliance, and the tremendous support among young voters for the BJP. What is your response?

These BJP leaders always like to list and come up with these numbered factors. Politicians who have connect to the ground like me do not require all these listing of factors. Still, since you posed the question like this, let me also list some answers for you. First, the people of Bihar know what the constituents of the Grand Alliance have done for the country as well as the development and social justice they have brought to the State and the country. Second, people know the track record of Narendra Modi, who is trying to be both Prime Minister of the country and the remote control Chief Minister of Bihar. People know that he talks and talks but does nothing to fulfil promises. He has been exposed thoroughly, and no right-thinking person trusts him. And when the exposure gathers momentum, the extremists in the Sangh Parivar will take over. They kill people talking of beef consumption, they kill intellectuals and liberal thinkers, and pursue a fascist agenda.

Third, the people of Bihar have realised how the BJP and the RSS are trying to snatch the right of reservation from the historically oppressed communities, the OBCs, the MBCs and Dalits. They will be punished for it. Four, people reeling under price rise, including that of basic food items like pulses, have no love for the promoters of false acche din [good days]. Do you need more?

The BJP leaders have also been saying that people are reminded of the “jungle raj” under the RJD in this campaign and that that too would ensure the defeat of the Grand Alliance.

Again, the people of Bihar know this campaign and its hollowness. What they call “jungle raj” was the period when the downtrodden and the oppressed of Bihar got respect, social honour and a brave voice to speak for themselves. Their needs were addressed, so were their social and economic insecurities. Of course, there were limitations and mistakes, too, as it happens in every government. But the fact is that ultimately it made a historical contribution, the reverberations of which are continuing even now with many benefits to society and to the State. All this talk about “jungle raj” is like giving somebody a bad name and hanging him. People have seen through this too.

There is also a perceived fear among the EBCs about Yadavs, and this, it is said, is turning them away from the Grand Alliance.

Yet another falsehood. The EBCs are with us in huge numbers. The election results will show where those communities are headed electorally.

There is a sense that the manner in which you opposed RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on reviewing OBC reservation has helped the Grand Alliance retrieve some lost ground, electorally.

No ground was ever lost in the first place to retrieve later. But, of course, the way I responded to Bhagwat’s statement exposed the larger conspiracy that the BJP and the RSS were working on. They were conspiring to do away with reservation or at least dilute it in the long run. It was also a kind of assurance from the Sangh Parivar to those who are opposed to reservation that “we are with you though we are trying to cultivate the EBCs and Mahadalits and have incorporated some of their self-seeking leaders into our fold”. But I saw through the whole game plan the moment it was uttered and jumped on to it and exposed it nationally. Now, they are humming and hawing. Some are qualifying it partly and some others are retracting it. But the people, especially the marginalised, the OBCs, the MBCs and Dalits, have realised it. And they are going for the jugular of the conspirators against the poor and the downtrodden.

Beyond the rhetoric, where is all this leading to electorally?

Towards a massive, crushing victory. Nothing less than three-fourths.

And what would be the priorities of the new government?

Primarily to continue with the good work I and Nitish ji have carried out over the last 25 years. Of course, Nitish ji will be in charge, hands-on. I will only be giving guidance and suggestions in an advisory capacity. Nitish ji has created tremendous goodwill among all sections of the population, including the marginalised.

We, including the Congress, have a common understanding that this goodwill needs to be sustained and built upon. Bihar is primarily an agrarian State and the interests of the agrarian class will be in focus. We will address issues of irrigation, electricity and ensuring better produce. These are broad parameters. Specific plans and programmes will be planned and implemented.

What about your children? Would there be responsibilities for them?

What we are going through now is an ideological and political battle. Whether official responsibilities need to be fixed, and, if yes, how they can be fixed shall be decided at the right moment.

So you will remain guide and philosopher? There is also talk that you will be the remote control.

I have much bigger tasks ahead of me. I am going to launch a nationwide campaign to expose the intolerance drive and fascist agenda of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. The whole country is talking about it now.

Lalu Prasad will be in the forefront, raising resistance. This is an important national task and mission.

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