Interview: Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress.

Randeep Singh Surjewala: ‘We have a vision of providing 10 lakh jobs’

Print edition : November 20, 2020

Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala (centre) addressing a press conference, in Patna on October 22. Photo: PTI

Interview with Randeep Singh Surjewala, national spokesman of the Congress.

Randeep Singh Surjewala, national spokesman of the Congress, said the grand alliance, or Mahagathbandhan, of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is working very well at the ground level because it is a blend of “youth, experience, wisdom and aspirations of the downtrodden”. The unique nature of this alliance gives it an edge over the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) because it is pitted against the “tested, tried, tired and waiting to be retired duo of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi,” he told Frontline. Excerpts from the interview:

 

The Bihar Assembly election is being held during challenging times. What according to you are the main issues that have found resonance with the people?

The issues in Bihar are rampant maladministration, blatant corruption, insurmountable unemployment, diabolical attack on agriculture and an absolute absence of government and governance.

How is this electoral plank gaining acceptance with the electorate because the BJP-JD(U) alliance’s entire narrative is built around reminding voters about 15 years of Lalu Prasad’s jungle raj?

If you have not been able to do anything in the last 15 years, if your governance has been an absolute zero, only then you will be forced to go 15 years back. On the contrary, this gathbandhan of the Congress, the RJD and the Left parties has started on a clean slate. Tejashwi Yadav is young and fresh. He has a new set of ideas. The Congress has the wisdom and experience of running a government. People have memories of how Bihar’s infrastructure was created right from the time of its first Chief Minister Sri Babu, when Bihar was considered one of the best administered States in India. People remember that even today. On the day we released our manifesto, which we call our badlav patra [document for change], it was Sri Babu’s 133rd birth anniversary. The Left parties, along with the Congress, bring in ground-level support of the labour and other poorer sections. So this is a unique combination of youth, wisdom, experience and aspirations of the downtrodden.
Also read: Tejashwi Yadav on the Grand Alliance's campaign

The alliance with the CPI(ML) Liberation has made the BJP come up with the tukde-tukde gang narrative once again. How are you countering that?

In the last Assembly election the principal slogan of the BJP and Amit Shah was that if the Nitish babu-RJD alliance came to power, there would be firecrackers in Pakistan. When the BJP abducted the people’s mandate, were there firecrackers and celebrations in Pakistan? The truth is that the BJP will polarise, divide but will not utter a word about Bihar or its development track record or its vision for development. The party will fight this election, like always, on Hindu-Musalmaan, shamsaan-kabristan, Hindustan-Pakistan, on their principal agenda of hate and fear. People in Bihar do not need fear; they need aspiration. The youth of Bihar do not need division. They need a forward-looking roadmap for their future, which promises progress, and this the Congress is delivering.

Is the response to this narrative encouraging?

Absolutely. The turnout is phenomenal. More than that, the enthusiasm for change, our slogan bole Bihar, badle sarkar, is finding resonance with the common man. I will give you two instances: Nitish babu, who is always calm headed, is now losing his cool. When people protest and shout slogans against him at his rallies, he tells them not to vote for him or that he will settle scores with them. He is angry, he is agitated, the fear of a massive loss is written all over his face. Secondly, the BJP is fighting this election not in a gathbandhan but on three thug bandhans: one is the JD(U) and the BJP, the second is the BJP and the Lok Janshakti Party [LJP], and third is Asaduddin Owaisi [Hyderabad Member of Parliament and All India Majlis-e-ittehadul Muslimeen leader] and the BJP. People are asking the BJP where is the Rs.1,25,000 crore package. [Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised a special package for Bihar in August 2015.] Only works worth Rs.1,559 crore have been completed in five years.
Also read: Nitish Kumar: Alone in a battle

You are saying that the BJP’s “vikas” (development) plank has fallen flat on its face?

Absolutely. A new vision which can meet the aspiration of the talented youths of Bihar is needed. Nitish babu said something obnoxious recently. Reacting to criticism that Bihar failed to attract business in the past 15 years, he said recently that this was because Bihar was a land-locked State. States such as Punjab, Haryana, large parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, are land-locked and have seen fairly good progress. To give such excuses is an admission of his failure. It means only one thing: that he has no faith in the people of Bihar or in himself. This is what we, the Congress and Tejashwi, have been emphasising. That the youths of Bihar are so talented. If they can run the information technology hubs of Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Gurgaon [Gurugram], why can’t there be an IT hub in Patna. In Gurgaon alone 15 lakh people work in the sector, of whom about three lakh are Biharis. We just need to create opportunities. That is what we plan to do. We have a vision of providing 10 lakh jobs.

This promise of 10 lakh jobs, is it a realistic one? Are people actually believing it?

It is a realistic one. The reason I am saying this is that five lakh posts are currently lying vacant in the government. These are sanctioned posts so there will be no difficulty in filling them up. Nitish babu and Sushil Modi refused to fill them up for the past 15 years. We will fill them up from day one. Five lakh jobs will be generated from the IT hubs and religious tourism circuits we have planned. We will create the Ramayana circuit, Bodh gyanotsav circuit, Mahavir Jain shakti kendra, Guru Govind Singh circuit, sufi saint circuit and Bihar devalaya yatra: these circuits already attract national and international tourists. We can develop these on a par with world-class tourist circuits and this will help create jobs.

Are people actually believing this?

That is what we are saying. That is what Tejashwi is saying: he says give me one opportunity and if I don’t deliver, throw me out. From the response we are getting at rallies and meetings, it seems people are open to us. The problem with Nitish babu and Sushil Modi is that when they say something like this, people don’t believe because they have already been tested for 15 years.
Also read: Tejashwi Yadav's rise as an leader in 2020

You seem confident of a positive outcome. But is not the electoral alliance formed by Owaisi creating a dent your alliance’s support base?

Owaisi is a BJP agent. That is how he has always been. Owaisi and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are two sides of the same coin. The BJP is trying its best to polarise people along caste and religious lines by putting up people like Owaisi and Mayawati [Bahujan Samaj Party leader]. The BJP is using them to attack the Congress instead of raising people’s issues. People will eventually see through the game of Owaisi and Mayawati. We are talking about creating a new Bihar. In my opinion, the Mahagatbhandan is working very well at the ground level.

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