File image of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi | Photo: ANI
File image of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi | Photo: ANI
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Patna: The BJP’s face in Bihar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi insists that the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is not the ‘B’ team of the national party.  

In an interview with ThePrint, Modi, who has been a steadfast supporter of Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, said that the LJP is not part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar. 

“LJP is not a part of NDA in Bihar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Nitish Kumar will be addressing around a dozen joint election meetings,” Modi said dismissing the perception that central leadership of BJP was out to cut Nitish down to size. 

“What does BJP gain if JD(U) gets lesser seats? We are looking to form a strong and stable government,” he emphasised. “We have made it clear that irrespective of the number of seats JD(U) and BJP wins, Nitish Kumar will be the chief minister.”

Modi has been the closest ally of Nitish ever since the BJP-JD(U) first assumed power in 2005. 

The only blip was in 2013 when the two parties severed ties. 

That bond is being put to the test again as the LJP earlier this month announced that it was going solo in these Bihar assembly elections. LJP chief Chirag Paswan made it clear his party won’t field candidates against the BJP while also appealing to voters to not back the chief minister.     

That has led to speculation that it was the BJP that was propping up Chirag Paswan. 

Modi, however, said that such charges were bogus. 

Asked if BJP leaders had allowed the Chirag crisis to happen by ignoring him, Modi said that the LJP chief was engaged in seat-sharing negotiations and that his party was even ready to give up seats from its quota.  

“But the party was making irresponsible statements even when talks were on. Had Ram Vilas Paswan been well and active in the talks, this crisis would not have happened,” Modi said. 


Also read: Not an issue, says BJP’s Rudy after he & Shahnawaz are left out of Bihar star campaigner list


‘BJP workers were confused but that has been addressed’ 

The deputy chief minister, however, conceded that the episode did create confusion among BJP supporters.

“But the confusion is slowly being removed. We have expelled our party leaders contesting as LJP candidates,” he said. “I and several of our leaders in our public meetings emphasise that the LJP is not a part of NDA. We will be addressing meetings in constituencies, where BJP rebels are contesting, in favour of JD(U) candidates.” 

“We have even fielded our candidates in the two seats that the LJP has in the present assembly,” he added. “Once the Prime Minister and Chief Minister address joint rallies whatever confusion there is will vanish.” 

Impact of LJP on elections

Asked about LJP’s impact on elections, Modi pointed out that there were so many fronts this time. “Upendra Kushwaha (RLSP) is fielding Kushwahas and upper castes. Pappu Yadav is fielding Yadavs,” he said.

“Similarly, LJP is also fielding its own candidates. Their status will be like that of Independent candidates — just under a banner. However, there may be a few seats where they may affect the prospects of either the NDA or Grand Alliance candidates.” 

Covid and migrant labourers

Modi also believes that the JD(U)-BJP government handled the Covid-19 pandemic and the migrant labour crisis well enough to not anger the electorate.  

“The opposition tried to make Covid and the situation arising after lakhs of Bihari migrant labourers returned a poll issue. They failed,” he said.

“Today (Tuesday) I was addressing a massive rally in Ramgarh in Kaimur district (stronghold of RJD  state president Jagdanand Singh where his son is contesting) and I asked the crowd how many of them had got free foodgrains announced by the government for the BPL group during Covid. All of them had their hands up.

“There is no anti-incumbency against this government because it has worked,” he added. “We will be highlighting our achievements during our campaigning. I have challenged the opposition to debate on roads, power and water supply.”

Tejashwi Yadav

Asked if he found Tejashwi Yadav a more mature opposition leader than in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Modi said that he saw very little change. 

“The RJD has been trying to raise the issue of unemployment. Unemployment has been an issue for the last 50 years and nobody is fooled by Tejashwi’s promise that he would provide 10 lakh jobs in his first cabinet meeting if elected to power,” he said. 

The deputy chief minister also hinted that Tejashwi’s RJD had got its poll strategy wrong. 

“The RJD candidates do reflect more seats to the EBCs but it remains dominated by Yadavs and Muslims. Lalu had tried to woo the EBC votes in 1995 by getting 10 members of their community elected as MLCs. But it failed,” he said.

“Besides, the list includes many criminals or their wves. In a couple of cases he has given tickets directly to criminals. The people are bound to remember the dark days when his father and mother were chief ministers.”  

Modi also stressed that the NDA would win a comfortable majority but refrained from giving out numbers.


Also read: Not just Tejashwi Yadav & Chirag Paswan, Bihar polls make-or-break for other dynasts too


 

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