‘Caste Formulas Work. So What If We Use Them, Too?’

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Lalu Prasad Yadav tells Rana Ayyub that his alliance with Paswan and Mulayam will emerge as the kingmaker

Old fox Still smarting under Bihar’s loss, Lalu wants to upstage Nitish
Old fox Still smarting under Bihar’s loss, Lalu wants to upstage Nitish

You claim that your alliance with Paswan and Mulayam will sweep the 134 seats it is contesting in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. Just what is the basis of making a statement like this?
I am very much in touch with the people of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. They are in our favour. When I make a statement, I am answerable for it. I don’t want to be known as a person who doesn’t know what he talks about.

Your alliance seems to be borne out of compulsion. The three of you have had major differences in the past.
And we’ve seen the outcome. We were defeated. Nobody got an advantage by allying with non-secular parties. Why should we repeat the mistake? We realised that unless we stood united before the people, we would suffer defeat.

Your alliance seems caste-based.
And doesn’t it work? Caste formulas work everywhere. Even in your state, Maharashtra, everybody is fighting in the name of Marathas and non-Marathas. So what if we do the same?

But the common man seems to like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s social engineering.
According to whom? And what social engineering can Nitish talk of? What does he know of secularism? No one who believes in secularism will ever side with those responsible for the [anti-Muslim] Gujarat riots [of 2002].

Many in Bihar appear satisfied with Nitish Kumar’s administration. They say that while you might have been a good Railways Minister, Bihar had stagnated under your party’s rule.
This is what the media, which has been bought over by Nitish Kumar, believes. The same media which wants to portray Lalu Yadav as the culprit. Our support base — Muslims, dalits, the upper castes — are all with us.

If you are so confident of getting the Muslim votes, why did you rake up the Babri Masjid demolition?
Muslims are very much with us, but it helps to remind people of history. It pays to tell people who has worked for them, what happened in the past and who deceived them. Was [then Prime Minister PV] Narasimha Rao not responsible [for it]? Why shy away from saying so, then?

Is blaming the Congress for the demolition not an attempt to eat into its votes? Why did you then support Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the Congress?
It was not aimed at Sonia or [Prime Minister] Manmohan [Singh]. They were not ruling the Congress then.

You have always rallied behind Sonia Gandhi and the UPA. Why the exchange of harsh statements then?
We did not start anything. We have been told that we did not take the Congress along in Bihar. Did they have the candidates? The numbers? They are fielding highly tainted candidates like Pappu Yadav against our candidates, who have greater chances of winning. What are they trying to prove?

NCP President Sharad Pawar told TEHELKA a few days ago that the Congress should have discussed the candidate for PM and formed a pre-poll alliance. Do you agree?
Well, yes, it would have been a good thing but what can be done now? One thing is for sure: no one party will be able get a majority.

Are you hopeful the UPA will have the required numbers? If it’s a hung Parliament, will you look at alternatives?
We are hopeful that the UPA will get the required numbers. We will reach the required figure and bring down the NDA and its prime ministerial candidate.

Advani or Modi?
The Supreme Court’s order that Modi face the SIT probe will perhaps decide their prime ministerial candidate.

Do you see the order as a slap in the face for the BJP, whose members have been talking of Modi as PM?
A slap in whose face? The BJP? Nothing can ever be a slap in the face of those thick-skinned people.

The PM’s post has become a contentious issue. Sonia Gandhi said that everyone seems to have just one job, to have prime ministerial ambitions.
What’s wrong with that? Why can’t one dream of being the Prime Minister? No one can stop people from dreaming. It is a coveted post.

Are you are willing to have Manmohan Singh take that coveted post again?
He is the candidate of the UPA, so yes, we support him as candidate for PM. He has been a great prime minister.

What happens, then, to the likes of Sharad Pawar, who has the endorsement of your alliance partner, Mulayam Singh Yadav?
Nobody has endorsed anyone other than Manmohan Singh. The rest can be decided after the elections.

What if it’s a hung parliament? Will you help the Left to form a non- Congress, non-BJP government?
Why discuss this now? The Left is secular and has worked in the national interest. Except for the nuclear deal, we didn’t disagree with them on any other issue.

You have a good equation with the Left parties. Will this mature into an alliance after the elections?
As I said, nothing can be answered now. All I insist on is that all secular parties should work together.

You had said that the Mulayam- Lalu-Paswan combine will play the kingmaker.
Our alliance is very strong and this will yield great results. We know we will have the numbers to help with government formation.

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