'My goal is to unseat the Vajpayee Government'

Published : Oct 10, 1998 00:00 IST

Former Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav has shown many a time that he has the ability to snatch political victory from the jaws of defeat. With the RJD Government headed by his wife Rabri Devi overcoming the threat of dismissal by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government at the Centre, Laloo Prasad is now going on the offensive: he has resolved to dislodge the Vajpayee Government by bringing together a broad front of secular, democratic parties. Excerpts from an interview he gave Kalyan Chaudhuri:

After the dismissal of the RJD Government was averted, you said you had won the first round of the battle against the BJP-led Government. What do you have to do to attain a total victory?

Unseating the brittle BJP-led Government is now my one-point political programme. The President's action in returning for reconsideration the Union Cabinet's recommendation to dismiss the Rabri Devi Government has paved the way for the formation of an alternative secular government at the Centre. During my recent visit to Delhi, I held talks with all the Opposition parties to explore the possibility of dislodging the Vajpayee Government and installing a secular government. We are considering moving a no-confidence motion against the BJP-led Government during the winter session of Parliament.

After the President returned the Union Cabinet's recommendation, you and your wife went to Delhi to convey your gratitude to the President but did not secure an appointment.

We are not unhappy about that. We took a chance even though we knew that President K.R. Narayanan, being independent and impartial, would not meet us. By returning the Union Cabinet's recommendation, the President upheld democratic traditions. He checked the growing menace of authoritarianism and saved democracy. The President's action also exposed the bankruptcy of the leaders of the BJP and the Samata Party, who were bent upon destroying the fabric of the Constitution. The massive countrywide protests against the onslaught on democracy and the Constitution by the BJP-led Government showed that authoritarianism will not be tolerated.

Was the motion of confidence brought forward in the Assembly by the RJD Government on September 21 intended to pre-empt the Centre's decision to dismiss it?

No. The RJD Government is a minority Government. The RJD has 146 MLAs in a House of 321. It is in power with the support of 29 Congress(I) and 21 Jharkhandi MLAs. After the sudden withdrawal of support by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Soren) and other Jharkhand parties over the Vananchal issue, their leaders claimed before Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari that the Government had been reduced to a minority and ought to be dismissed. Under the circumstances, it became necessary for Rabri Devi to prove that she commanded a majority.

In his report, Bhandari has claimed that the law and order situation in Bihar has "slid into anarchy". He has cited the massacre of 60 Dalits at Bathe last December and the murder of three MLAs in two months.

No State in India is free from violence. Law and order in Bihar is far better than that in several BJP-ruled States such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The massacre at Bathe was committed by the Ranbir Sena, a private army raised by upper-caste landlords under the patronage of the BJP. Law and order is just a pretext. Statistics show that Delhi is at the top of the crime chart; Bihar only comes sixth.

Why are relations between Bhandari and the State Government so strained?

Bhandari is not fit to be a Governor. He is more a BJP activist than an impartial and independent Governor holding a constitutional office. He was sent to Bihar with the sole objective of removing an elected government. He converted Raj Bhavan into a camp office of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the BJP. We demanded his recall. If he has any sense of self-respect, he should resign and leave Bihar.

Why do you, who once supported a Jharkhand state in south Bihar, oppose the creation of a Vananchal state in the same region?

The concept of a Vananchal state comprising 18 districts of south Bihar is different from that of a Jharkhand state. Jharkhand was to have included 26 districts from Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. That idea has been dropped. Vananchal is the brainchild of the RSS, which, in collaboration with vested interests in the mineral-rich south Bihar, is exploiting the tribal people and the poor.

There is speculation that in the event of your surrendering on October 28 in connection with the cases against you, and of your being arrested, there will be a political realignment in Bihar and that the BJP-Samata Party combine will form an alternative government.

The BJP-Samata Party combine, which has only 51 MLAs of its own, is day-dreaming. The Rabri Devi Government proved its overwhelming majority during the recent Assembly session with the support of the Congress(I), the CPI(M) and other Left parties. The RJD MLAs are united and the support of the other parties is rock-solid. The BJP-Samata Party combine is living in a fool's paradise if it thinks it can engineer a split in the RJD.

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