The Bihar Assembly polls later this year should be fought on local development issues and restraint over language must be maintained, Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan have said. The remarks by the BJP ally assume significance as they come after a vitriolic Delhi Assembly polls campaign in which some BJP leaders were rapped by the Election Commission for making inflammatory speeches.
In an interview to PTI, Ram Vilas Paswan said the NDA alliance in Bihar was intact and expressed confidence that it would form the government with a two-thirds majority as the Opposition was a “sunken ship”.
“LJP has strongly been with the NDA. I have always said only that animal dies on the road who cannot decide whether to go left or right. As far as Nitish (Kumar) Ji is concerned, I don’t think he will go anywhere,” he said when asked about the state of the NDA alliance in Bihar.
In the Delhi polls, winning and losing aside, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the LJP fought as part of the NDA, he pointed out, asserting that nobody would leave for the opposition alliance in Bihar.
“What is there in the Opposition. Lalu Yadav is in jail, he is unwell, the rest of the parties are singing different tunes. So who will go over to the Opposition? It is not even a sinking ship, it is one that has already sunk. They are fighting among themselves, NDA is intact,” the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said.
There is no challenge in Bihar and the NDA will form the government after getting a two-thirds majority in the assembly polls, Ram Vilas Paswan said.
On BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s assertion that Nitish Kumar would lead the NDA alliance in Bihar, he said the LJP has no objection to it. Asked about the vitriolic Delhi polls campaign and provocative statements by some BJP leaders in the run-up to the elections, he said LJP chief Chirag Ram Vilas Paswan had made the party’s stand clear on this and Amit Shah also admitted that it might have been counterproductive.
“No one has ever gone to the Election Commission against us. Chirag has said that the issue of election is one of development,” he said.
Article 370 has been abrogated along with Article 35A, triple talaq banned and the Ram Janambhoomi issue is also resolved, so now the state elections should be on local issues, he said.
“In national polls, there is no match for Narendra Modi. In-state polls which happened recently, it has been proven that focus should be on local issues of development and restraint over language be maintained,” he said.
“Restraint over the language should be a must and I would like to appeal to the people of Bihar to vote on the basis of performance, keeping in mind the work done by the central and state governments,” he said.
The BJP had mounted one of its most aggressive campaigns in the Delhi Assembly polls, with Home Minister Amit Shah leading the saffron charge fuelled by its planks of Hindutva and nationalism, and its strident opposition to anti-CAA protest in Shaheen Bagh.
In their bid to rally their supporters, several BJP leaders made controversial and even incendiary remarks against their rivals, prompting the Election Commission to take serious actions like barring Union minister Anurag Thakur and MP Parvesh Verma from campaigning.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party won a thumping mandate in Delhi, winning 62 seats out of the 70. Asked if seat-sharing for the Bihar polls could be a stumbling block for the NDA, Ram Vilas Paswan said everything would work out smoothly. He said his party could not come to an agreement with the BJP in Jharkhand but if they would have, results would have been better.
“Our party never wants any undue favour. In 2014, we fought on seven seats. Before 2019, newspapers started saying that we will get 2 seats-3 seats, so Chirag made it clear that we fought 7 seats and we will fight the same. So there were talks with Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, we fought seven seats and won all of them,” Ram Vilas Paswan said.
On whether issues such as the amended citizenship act or the National Population Register (NPR) will be important in the Bihar polls, Ram Vilas Paswan said, “I don’t think so.”
He said all doubts had been cleared regarding the issues related to the CAA, NPR and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Many state governments, including Bihar, said they would not implement the NRC and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself made it clear that there was no discussion on NRC and it was not an issue. With curtains falling on the Delhi Assembly polls, all eyes are now on Bihar elections, slated for October and November this year.