Sanjay Jaiswal , president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bihar State unit, minces no words in admitting that there is an anti-incumbency mood against Nitish Kumar. But he hopes the Janata Dal (United)-BJP government’s performance in the past three years when it could “deliver” with help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi would help neutralise the sentiment. According to him, the biggest challenge the BJP faces in Bihar is delivering on the promises made by Modi. Excerpts from the interview he gave Frontline :
What according to you are the issues dominating the political discussion in Bihar?
For us, the only important issue is what we are promising for the next five years in our election manifesto. Our focus is on how we will deliver on that. The last 15 years of work done by our government is a talking point. Besides, the track record of those who ruled before us is another important talking point: the way they handled the State vis a vis our performance.
Nitish Kumar has been Chief Minister since 2005. Are you not facing problems because of the anti-incumbency against him?
The anti-incumbency has been greatly neutralised by the work done by our government in the last three years since Nitish ji started working with Prime Minister Modi. Modi ji announced a huge special package for Bihar, to the tune of Rs.1,25,000 crore, which was used to improve rural roads, electricity, water and other infrastructure issues. The work done in the past 15 years has been able to minimise anti-incumbency. The track record of the claimants has a lot to do with this. Their performance was so bad that no matter what they say, nobody is believing them that they can deliver anything. Also read:Nitish Kumar: Alone in a battle
How far can the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) damage your alliance?
Any political party that enters the contest claims its share of votes. It does not happen that they contest and do not get their vote share. So, that much damage is there. But in my opinion, the way he [LJP president Chirag Paswan] left us [the alliance in the State], will minimise the impact. We wanted a reasonable settlement, but he apparently was not interested. The way he left was wrong. Also read:Will Chiraj catch the light?
There is a perception that this is a BJP-LJP strategy and that there is a discreet alliance between the two parties. Your comments?
What strategy can there be? They contested against us in Jharkhand. Even the JD (U) contested against us in Uttar Pradesh. Each political party has its own ideas about expansion, reach, and so on. But the NDA in Bihar is what it is in its present form, no more.
There is a perception of a discreet understanding between the BJP and Chirag Paswan. He has been making statements that point to such an understanding.
Chirag Paswan is more a media hype than a public hype. Why are you people giving so much importance to his statements? Somebody who has a mere 5 per cent of the vote share, why should he be hyped so much? Also read:Interview with Chirag Paswan
How confident are you of coming back to power with Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister?
One hundred per cent. It is a fact that some BJP leaders have become rebels and are running helter-skelter, contesting as candidates of this or that party. But BJP workers are committed to the party and their vote share is not going anywhere. Similarly, the JD(U)’s vote share is going to stay with it. I don’t think there is going to be any problem for us. Besides, the BJP has 50,000 booth-level workers who will work for each and every NDA candidate. So we don’t see any problem whatsoever.
Tejashwi Yadav is drawing huge crowds at his rallies. Does that worry you?
The RJD’s old following is still there, there is no doubt about that. But the public at large does not have faith in him. Look at his track record. Whenever the Leader of the Opposition was most needed [in the Assembly], he was in Delhi, never there with the people. So, how can anyone have faith in him? He has been in the State only for the past 40 days. So his followers may be getting excited about him, but the general public knows him only too well. Also read:Tejaswhi Yadav: Formidable foeman
What according to you are the challenges the BJP will face in Bihar?
The biggest challenge for us is to deliver on the promises the Prime Minister has made, in the next five years. People have much faith in him. They believe each and every word he utters and we have to see that whatever he has promised is delivered.