‘The choice is between us and misrule under Lalu’

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BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi tells Kunal Majumder that allies cannot dictate terms during the Bihar poll campaign

Is Narendra Modi going to campaign for the BJP in Bihar?
Modi is our senior leader and commands mass appeal. The Bihar campaign is going to start in October and we are still finalising the details. It’s too early to say anything. We are in the process of drawing up the list of possible rallies that we will organise on our own and the ones that we will jointly hold with the Janata Dal (United). The final decision will be taken after consultations with leaders at the state and national level.

Going by the reaction of JD(U) leaders, especially Shivanand Tiwari, who threatened to break the alliance, has Modi become a liability for the BJP in Bihar?
No, that’s not true. Modi is an asset for the BJP. He is an icon of development.

JD(U) leaders sound jittery when Modi enters the picture. However, you say that he cannot be ignored. Isn’t the BJP in a bind in Bihar?
When you are in an alliance, you have some compulsions. However, when there is an election, all the allies need to sit down and decide on a common agenda. We have to ensure that the BJP-JD(U) alliance returns to power in Bihar. But let me make this clear: if any party, be it the BJP or the JD(U), adopts a rigid attitude, it will be disastrous for the alliance.

Is the BJP’s Hindutva ideology straining its relationship with the JD(U)?
Not at all. Our ideology is very clear. We are a nationalist party. You can call us anything you want: we are nationalist and we are going to stay nationalist. The JD(U) has been our alliance partner for a long time and I don’t think either that party or our other allies have any problems with our ideology.

The JD(U) doesn’t want Modi and Varun Gandhi to campaign as they fear that it will result in the loss of Muslim votes. What if the alliance partner says no to the duo’s presence?
The alliance partners cannot dictate terms to us. The campaign strategy will be decided through a mutual agreement.

Isn’t the BJP playing second fiddle to JD(U) in Bihar when a senior leader like you is made to retract statements on Modi?
I have never retracted my statement. I had said that Modi is our senior leader and star campaigner. The campaign programme is still pending and is yet to be decided. Bihar is an important state for us and all top party leaders will be part of the joint campaign. Don’t worry, you will soon come to know which leaders will campaign for the BJP in Bihar.

The Congress tasted success in Uttar Pradesh due to Rahul Gandhi. Do you think his magic will work in Bihar as well?
Rahul Gandhi won’t be successful in Bihar. The opposition votes will be divided between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. However, the Congress might perform better than in the previous election.

Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan have come together for this election. How do you rate their chances?
I don’t think they are going to affect our chances. The people of Bihar are aware of the nature of governance when they were in power. The people have suffered a lot during their stint. Even the Congress had supported their misrule. This election is about the development work done by the BJP-JD(U) in five years versus 15 years of misrule under Lalu, Paswan and the Congress.

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

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