BJP leaders don't have courage to replace Nitish as CM: JD(U) minister Shrawan Kumar

'People are impressed by issues raised by JD(U), BJP, have faith in Modi-Nitish team'

Shrawan Kumar Bihar minister for rural development and senior JD(U) leader Shrawan Kumar | X

Nitish Kumar needs BJP to repeat the 2019 Lok Sabha tally, which led to his again switching sides in January this year. Bihar chief minister is banking on his development work in last two decades to get votes and secure his future till the next assembly elections. Considered close to the chief minister, Shrawan Kumar, minister for rural development and senior JD(U) leader, is campaigning extensively to help JD(U) and Nitish Kumar retain the last tally. Shrawan Kumar has won all the assembly elections since 1995 from Nalanda seat.

THE WEEK caught up with him during his campaign and discussed a range of issues from Nitish Kumar’s appeal to Tejashwi Yadav’s challenge. Edited excerpts.

We have already witnessed three phases of polling, what has been the response so far?

The response is positive. I have been to Banka, Katihar, Purunea, Nawada, Gaya and Munger. People of Bihar is in favour of the NDA. We will do better than last time. We lost the Kishanganj seat but we will win this time. I have got the feedback that we are winning.

JD(U) alliance has changed many times in the recent years. Won’t it confuse the voters ?

The NDA has six parties as allies. All the important leaders and workers of these parties have conducted coordination meetings at five levels starting from state, assembly, district, division, panchayat and booth level. This has led to thrashing out any differences and smoothening of ties. Whatever little confusion that existed in the public, we have rectified it. I have been to eight places today, the response from the rural population is there. Some people are trying to spread misinformation and panic that some caste or community is not voting. In every seat, one candidate may have some opponents, it doesn’t matter. That could be for many reasons. But when it comes to development, not even a single person says that there has not been development.

People are expressing faith in Modi-Nitish pair?

Of course, they are.

What issues are you raising in the elections.

We are talking about development. Country needs to be put on fast track. Bihar will have double engine government. Our Prime Minister can talk from a position of power to any country across the world. He doesn’t get cowed down. Our economy has improved and is on its way to improve further. At the state level, we have worked in the state. We have worked even for those who want to vote against us. People are impressed by the joint issues raised by us (BJP and JD(U)).

Jobs and employment are a big issue in this polls. Tejashwi Yadav claims that they have given the jobs during their tenure ?

People are not so unaware or blind that they cannot see the truth. When Nitish Kumar became chief minister, over seven lakh have been given jobs. Over 1.30 crore women have been made self-reliant through Jeevika scheme. Even illiterate women were empowered so that they do not have to rely on private money lenders. Households were able to afford education, health and get on with basic necessities. The CM has given 30,000 jobs to women in police. It is not that work was done when he (Tejashwi) was here. They claim that jobs were given to teachers, but the minister did not even visit the department for six months. Tejashwi was a minister, did he give any jobs?

Caste survey was conducted when both JD(U) and RJD were in power. How will it impact in polls?

There is an impact among the people. There are 94 lakh households who do not have jobs or employment. This fact is hitting people. We will connect these people with employment in the next five years. These 94 lakhs do not have houses of their own or are homeless. To help them buy land, the government will provide Rs 1 lakh. We will give Rs 1.2 lakh to construct house and Rs 12,000 to construct toilet. This will improve their livelihood. The survey has brought out the condition, now these will get help to improve their being.

Will the Lok Sabha polls impact the assembly elections next year?

Assembly polls have different issues. Even local elections have different strategy. Whatever work we have done in Bihar, we will get benefit in the Vidhan Sabha polls. We will complete 75 per cent of the task this year and remaining 25 per cent next fiscal. This includes providing power to households and farms. When we finish this task, we will benefit in the polls.

The BJP slogan of 400 plus seats has led to some concerns among the marginalised communities, even when the PM has assured that the Constitution will not be changed

The opposition keeps on raising issues, but it will have no resonance among the people. We believe that the Constitution cannot be changed. We also tell people this will not happen. But the lines are already drawn among the voters. When people who want peace and development come to one side, then balance is titled in our favour.

Chirag Paswan attacked JD(U) during the assembly polls. How is the coordination going on this time?

On the surface, there is no issue but it is difficult to assess at the deeper level. Till now there has been no problem as we are holding joint rallies and conferences.

Opposition says after the Lok Sabha polls, BJP may try to hoist its own leader as chief minister?

There may be some murmurs but BJP leaders does not have the courage to take such a step. If they do so, they will suffer more than us.

There has been no alternative to Nitish Kumar in Bihar till now. What could be the reason?

Nitish Kumar’s vision and thinking is for such people for whom Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi worked - the last man in the queue. The same set of people for whom Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Karpuri Thakur, Jaiprakash Narayan, Sardar Patel, worked. Nitish has fulfilled their dreams which has made him popular leader in the country. Gandhi had talked about the poor, Nitish followed it up with seven resolutions. Piped water has reached over 96 percent household as did electricity. He has delivered on many promises which has improved the living conditions of women, girls and youth. This is replicated by leaders from other states.

How do you view Tejashwi Yadav’s campaign and political future?

In his campaign, people from his community (Yadav) are the most active participants. In our campaign and rallies, people from all communities participate. They follow two communities (Yadavs and Muslims). I am not saying others don’t participate, but if one travels by helicopters, hundreds gather just to watch it. They should reveal how many gather to listen to him or watch his helicopter. They do not offer anything new. They only talk about Lalu Prasad Yadav to mobilise their cadre. They are spending money, it will show in some manner.

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