What is the sense you get from people as you go for the election campaign?
The yearning for change is apparent, and is the writing on the wall. The people of Bihar are tired of the tried, tested, tired and retired leadership of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi. They want change to happen so that Bihar’s aspirations can be fulfilled. The corrupt administration of Nitish Kumar, the absolute malgovernance, no semblance of delivery has tired the people of the state, particularly the young. The government has failed, that's why the grand alliance of RJD, Congress and the Left parties is the only acceptable alliance on the ground.
NDA leaders are turning this election campaign into their 15 years’ of rule versus that of the RJD. What is your reaction?
This argument is per say obnoxious. Once in 2015, a government was elected and the democracy was hijacked in broad daylight. The BJP, after having been rejected by the people, usurped power through the back door. Nitish Kumar attained power immorally by compromising on scams like the Srijan scam. This is a government founded on corruption and back door entry by demolishing the democractic mandate. You will be tested on five years of delivery. So, when they don't want to be judged for the last five years or the five years before that, they bring in comparison. So, the 15 years argument is perverse and obnoxious. People want to know what you have delivered. The BJP's module is fear, while the grand alliance's module is fulfilling aspirations and development. The grand alliance is founded on aspirations, new ideas and freshness for building a new Bihar. That's the primary comparison between the two and tells the story of who has people's support. This is apparent from the crowd which both Tejashwi Yadav and Rahul Gandhi are drawing.
You mentioned aspirations of the people. Are these elections also a fight between the old and the young?
Bihar has moved from the confines of fear and division on which the BJP and the JDU have thrived and survived. People are tired of the same repetitive ideas that do not see any fructification, despite years and years of promise. Nitish Kumar is losing his cool, rebuking the young who are asking for jobs. His response was “do not vote for me”. This is not the calm and cool-headed Nitish Kumar that people knew. This Nitish Kumar is tired and waiting to be retired.
Are these elections a referendum on PM Modi or Nitish Kumar?
These elections are being fought on Bihar issues. The BJP is trying to put other issues in this basket as they have nothing to answer about 15 years of their rule. That's why the BJP will bring samshaan and kabristan, Hindu and Muslim, and all such divisive politics into play. But like Arjuna, our eye is on the target—the grand alliance's eye. Rahul and Tejashwi's eyes are centred on the eye of the fish, which is building a new aspirational Bihar.
What does these elections mean for the Congress? Can the party consolidate its base here?
Wherever politics of caste and religion became prominent, the Congress lost the centred space in that states’ politics. People are now tired of the same old story. We are now projecting a story of aspirations that cuts across religions, caste, regions and individuals. This alliance is founded on one thing—an aspirational, developing Bihar, and putting it in the forward league based on the insurmountably talented human resource the state has. If Biharis can run Bengaluru or Gurgaon or Mumbai or Kolkata or Hyderabad, then why can't they do the same in Bihar? The only people responsible for it are Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi.
What do you make of Chirag Paswan's stance on JDU and BJP?
Three things are clear. BJP's concerted conspiracy will throw JDU into the dustbin on November 5 (final phase of polling) after the last vote is polled. For the BJP, Nitish Kumar's utility is gone and their purpose is to dump him. They will dump him even before the counting. The BJP is trying to mislead the people with three alliances. First is BJP-JDU, second is BJP-LJP, and the third is BJP and (AIMIM chief Assadudin) Owaisi. Otherwise, what explains the 40 BJP candidates who are fighting on LJP’s ticket against the JDU? Why doesn’t the PM throw out Chirag Paswan from the NDA or the BJP pull up Chirag from using Modi's pictures?
Also, Owaisi is a BJP agent. He goes everywhere. Owaisi and the RSS are the two sides of the same coin. Owaisi adopts the Modi brand by polarising people.
After RJD promised 10 lakh jobs, the BJP came up with the 19-lakh promise. Is this the main election issue?
The RJD and Congress have promised 10 lakh jobs. The chief minister said these jobs cannot be given. Then Sushil Modi issued a press release saying not even five lakhs can be given. But, within 24 hours the BJP came up with 19 lakhs. How can they promise that when the CM and the deputy CM questioned it? Why has the BJP not given these jobs during the 15 years of their misrule?
Our alliance said five lakh jobs are lying vacant. We will make Patna an IT hub, we will unleash Bihar's potential.
What are the Congress’s promises?
We have promised to waive loans for farmers, like we have done in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Small farmers will be given Rs 6,000 in cash; electricity bills will be reduced to half.