Staying with Lalu would have been political suicide for Nitish Kumar: Ram Vilas Paswan

Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan. Source: PIB

Lok Janshakti Party leader and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan is pleased with the recent developments in Bihar. His party won only two seats in the 2015 state elections—a tremendous blow considering the six seats it won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Now, with Nitish having joined the NDA, Paswan’s brother Pashupati Kumar Paras has become a minister in the new state government. In an exclusive interview with ThePrint’s Associate Editor Kumar Anshuman, Paswan lashed out at Lalu Prasad Yadav and criticised the opposition for its lack of leadership.

Edited excerpts:

Q. You seem to be very happy with the recent developments in Bihar.

The people of Bihar are happy. If Nitish had stayed with Lalu, his political death was imminent. A friendship works only when two people are connected by the heart. The friendship between Nitish and Lalu was never by the heart. Lalu suffocated him in the government. I recently met Nitish Kumar twice at his house in Patna. Even though we’d been apart, after a few moments our bond was revitalised. We are friends by the heart.

Q. Your brother is a minister in the new government. In fact, your party is the only previous NDA ally to receive a ministerial post.

Nitish himself made Paras a minister in his Government. He told me that Paras is a senior state leader and he wants to send a message to the people that everyone is respected in the government.

Q. Lalu Yadav is now accusing Nitish of siding with communal forces for electoral gains.

There is no doubt that secularism is important. Indians by nature are secular. But you can’t hide corruption under the garb of secularism. The man who used to stay in a servant quarter became the owner of a Rs 8000 crore property. How will you hide this? Aren’t we secular? And I know how secular they are. If they were secular, why didn’t Lalu make a Muslim CM instead of his wife? Why didn’t he make Abdul Bari Siddiqui a deputy CM instead of Tejashwi? Lalu only thinks about his family and own wealth.

Q. You were also with Lalu for a considerable time in politics.

Whenever I was with him, he came to power. In 2004, when Sonia Gandhi requested that I join the alliance, I came. Lalu won 22 seats. It was decided that Ram Vilas Paswan would get the railway ministry, but Lalu became adamant that he wanted the same post. Now he is facing corruption charges for his wrongs as a minister. I was with him but parted ways because of him. Lalu is a person who at one moment would touch your feet and the very next would hold you by the neck. I’d left him by 2014 and you saw that he was decimated in Bihar.

Q. Recently Tejashwi Yadav has emerged as a new young leader who might be able to take on Nitish Kumar.

No one will emerge as a leader. It is all a matter of a few days. Before he could emerge, Lalu had thrown him into a corruption tangle. I don’t know whether the charges against Tejashwi are correct but Lalu used his name to amass huge amounts, thereby jeopardizing his [Tejashwi’s] political career even before it could properly start.

Q. But Tejashwi has been attacking Nitish every day, calling upon his inner conscience.

Had Lalu been smart, he would have asked Tejashwi to resign. With that he could have finished Nitish Kumar by taking a high moral ground. Nitish would have no option but to stick with the alliance. Now there will not be a no vacancy until 2024 both in the state and the Centre.

Q. Lalu Yadav is planning to ally with Mayawati to woo Dalit voters in Bihar. Do you think it will affect the Lok Janshakti Party’s prospects?

She has no presence outside UP. It is true for anyone of us, be it Lalu, Mulayam or myself. Even if I am a national leader, my base is in Bihar. In UP Mayawati’s party couldn’t open its account in the Lok Sabha elections. In the state assembly, she is below 20. Now she is begging Lalu to send her back to the Rajya Sabha. If you can’t win a seat for yourself, what kind of leader are you? Her joining with Lalu won’t have any impact on Bihar.

Q. The opposition is still trying to come up with a united front against the NDA.

They have been trying this for a long time. Just before the Bihar elections, a few parties got together with Mulayam as leader, but they fell apart when it came to ticket distribution. There is a problem of plenty. Everyone is a leader and is not ready to accept someone else as the face. Tell me: who would accept Rahul Gandhi as a leader? Congress won’t accept any other person as their leader. They will keep doing this until the elections and nothing will happen.

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