Tejashwi Yadav says that the Mahagathbandhan has been forged in Bihar to promote social justice and oppose the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other Manuvadi forces. Tejashwi is canvassing for the candidates of his party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and is also is the star campaigner for the Congress and other constituents of the Mahagathbandhan. He is facing multiple challenges, including sabotage from within the party and family squabbles.
Nawal Kishore Kumar: What was the need for a Mahagathbandhan in Bihar? And why include in it parties like RLSP [Rashtriya Lok Samta Party] and HAM [Hindustani Awam Morcha], which have broken up with the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]? Was there some compulsion or were the RJD and the Congress simply trying to repeat the old formula?
Tejashwi Yadav: The Mahagathbandhan has been in place in Bihar since 2015. It was Nitish Kumar who walked out of it. Nitish’s character and his political ways are now known to everyone. The hollowness of the so-called morality he talks about is public knowledge. He has insulted the mandate of 10.5 crore residents of Bihar. We have not broken any alliance. We have just associated others with us. As you said, it is an old, traditional formula. The NDA [National Democratic Alliance] is a bigger alliance. The number of parties in the NDA is much higher. Our Mahagathbandhan is a social alliance. It includes Dalits, OBCs, minorities and progressive thinkers. Our social Mahagathbandhan is against the RSS and Manuvadi forces. Those who are fighting for social justice and are against the RSS and the capitalists are with us. Manuvadi and capitalist forces are with Modi ji.
TY: There has been no mistake. The four seats you are referring to will fall into our kitty. Last time, we had contested 27 seats. This time, we are contesting 19. We have divided the seats among ourselves with mutual consensus. Look at the BJP. Last time, it had 22 MPs from Bihar. This time, it is contesting only 18 seats. The BJP has committed mistakes, we haven’t.
NKK: Why is the RJD, which has left the Arrah seat for the Left [Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation], afraid of Kanhaiya Kumar [of the Communist Party of India] in Begusarai? Do you fear that the people supporting RJD will start looking to Kanhaiya as their leader? Do you see any political equation between the Arrah seat and the Patliputra seat, from where your sister Misa Bharti is contesting?
TY: You referred to Arrah. We gave this seat to the CPI (ML). The CPI (ML) is engaged in a grass-roots struggle, supported by the poor and the downtrodden. It is a major Left party in Bihar. It has three MLAs. As for the CPI and Begusarai, the CPI is a party of one district and one caste. It doesn’t have a single MLA. CPI (ML) has fought with us shoulder to shoulder on the streets and has supported us in the Assembly. It is supporting us in 34 constituencies. We have included only such parties in the Mahagathbandhan which are strong and have supported us in our struggle. That is why we included CPI (ML). Begusarai is our traditional stronghold. Last time, despite Modi wave, we got a substantial number of votes there.
NKK: How do you view your father Lalu Prasad Yadav’s absence from the poll scene? Aren’t elections in Bihar incomplete without him? How far you have been successful in filling up the vacuum created by his absence? How do you assess yourself?
TY: His absence is being felt by everyone – from the media to the common man. Though he is physically not with us his thoughts are with us. He is not a person, he is a thought. Just see the way he is being treated. He is not being provided medical help. He is not being allowed to meet his family members. Everyone knows why this is being done. If there is one person Narendra Modi and the RSS fear the most, it is Lalu ji. As for assessing myself, it is for the people to do that. People will assess me. In a democracy, the people are the final authority.
NKK: Is it all well within the RJD family? It includes your family, too – I am referring to your elder brother Tej Pratap. For a while, it appeared outsiders were taking advantage of the feud in your family. Is anyone behind the problems in your family?
TY: Everything is fine with the RJD. It is the media that is spreading misinformation. We do not talk in public about our family issues. At present, the issue before us is to the save the country, to save the Constitution. For me, my country comes first.
NKK: What is your opinion about Nitish Kumar? Why is Sushil Modi so aggressive towards you and your family? Is it because you had taken his place (as deputy CM) in the last government?
TY: My opinion about Nitish Kumar is the same as the opinion of every Bihar resident. He has subverted people’s mandate. He is the Bhishma Pitamaha of corruption and like Dhritrashtra; he has closed his eyes to crimes. Just see how he is trying to protect the culprits who gang-raped girls living in a shelter home. He is mum on the Srijan scam. His real character stands exposed. Sushil Modi doesn’t work for the BJP; he works for Nitish ji. The scam scripted by his brother’s company is public knowledge. The name of Sushil Modi’s sister has surfaced in connection with the Srijan scam. She was paid Rs 5 crore. Sushil Modi is a past master at exposing scams (“khulasa master”) while Nitish is a past master at doling out assurances (“dilasa master”).
NKK: After three rounds of voting and election rallies throughout the state, where does the Mahagathbandhan stand in Bihar (in terms of the number seats it is going to win)?
TY: We are going to win all the seats. This time, the people of Bihar will make those who are breaking the nation, those who are cheating the nation, bite the dust. See how Modi ji has snatched jobs from the youth and how prices have shot through the roof. Modi ji had promised that Rs 15 lakh would be credited to bank accounts of every citizen. He had promised that black money stashed abroad would be brought back. He has not fulfilled a single promise. In 2015, he auctioned Bihar. Now, the people want the accounts from him.
(This interview was published in Amar Ujala on 28 April 2018.)
Translation: Amrish Herdenia; editing: Anil