Bihar’s veteran leader Lalu Yadav has seconded Sharad Pawar’s idea of not projecting any opposition candidate ahead of next year’s general elections. The election, said the leader convicted in four corruption cases, will be about issues and not a US presidential style clash between two candidates from opposing sides.
Yesterday, Sharad Pawar, one of the key interlocuters of the opposition, suggested that the thorny issue of prime ministership could be tackled once the BJP was beaten in the election. He also had a formula for it. The party winning the maximum number of seats, he said, would claim the post.
In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Lalu Yadav, who was on parole from jail on medical grounds, said the Prime Ministerial candidate could be decided “in a meeting of all like-minded party leaders in five minutes”.
With less than a year to go before the elections, the BJP has repeatedly attacked the opposition over its lack of a prime ministerial candidate. The opposition, the party has jeered, is a divided house, pointing to crucial combats over issues like the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s election.
The faultlines in the opposition has been exposed by regional powerhouses like Mamata Banerjee, who has been vocal about a bigger role, and Mayawati, whose allies have hinted at her ambition for the top job. The Congress has kept a low profile as a signal of its commitment to stitching up the front.
Calling questions on prime ministerial candidate a way to “divert attention”, Lalu Yadav said the next parliamentary election will be about the “promises made five years ago and how people are feeling cheated as the Narendra Modi government failed on all fronts”.
“You tell me – except for changing the goal posts, what else they have done?” questioned the 70-year-old leader of Bihar’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Lalu Yadav had been one of the chief movers of a united opposition to stop the BJP from winning a second term in next year’s elections. His younger son and political heir Tejashwi Yadav, who has been leading the party in his absence, has toed the line.
The RJD chief said he was confident that more and more parties will come out against the Narendra Modi government.
“See, the fight is very simple… they are trying to put emergency and resorting to all kind of fascist tactics. So whoever believes in that, will remain with them and whoever believes in democracy, tension-free society, free speech and welfare of Dalits, backwards and minorities, will come with us,” said the leader, who due to his conviction, in ineligible to contest elections or hold public office for at least six years.
Asked whether he is open to the idea of joining hands with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav said, “He used to talk about RSS-Mukta Bharat” (an India free of the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor). But now, Nitish Kumar is running the government with BJP, “so there’s no question or joining hands once again,” added the leader, who will surrender in court again tomorrow.
Nitish Kumar had ended the Grand Alliance with his party and the Congress last year to form another government in partnership with the BJP. But a perception about his differences with the BJP over seat sharing and other issues, has triggered talks about a resumption of the partnership.