On the campaign trail, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is full of confidence. He firmly believes his development plank will work with the electorate and that he will be able to take all sections of society with him. Nitish spoke to Outlook. Excerpts:
The last polls had an anti-Laloo plank. What is it this time?
The last election wasn’t fought on the anti-Laloo plank. Last time, people were sure that they wanted to vote for a clear-cut majority. This election is all about providing continuity.
Continuity to what?
Continuity to what we’ve done so far. This time there are three important factors that people will vote for: a fear-free Bihar where law and order prevails, development and Bihari pride. Every Bihari wants to be respected.
Your entire campaign is based on development. Will it work?
Yes, it will. People have seen the work happening around them. For the first time, they have realised that development can happen in Bihar and it can happen fast. A recent survey showed that 39 per cent of the total voters will vote for development. That says it all.
Don’t caste combinations play an important role in Bihar? You yourself engineered a subgroup within the Dalits called the Mahadalits....
Caste combination plays an important role all over the country. But caste is not the sole factor. Mahadalits are an important section of Bihar’s social structure. For ages no one did anything for them. Now they are confident that someone is looking after their interests.
What about the Muslims? Do you see the Muslims voting for you after the Ayodhya verdict when you have the BJP for a coalition partner?
People will vote for development. Look at what we have done in the field of education. That is for every caste and community. Secondary schools are full up. People will vote for the change that we have brought.
Have you been able to add any new groups of voters to the present set? Will it help?
This election will throw up a huge surprise. This time you will see a 25-30 per cent increase in voter turnout. That will come from the women. And this vote, this year, will be an independent vote. Our government has given them a sense of security and peace of mind from violence. We have empowered women with 50 per cent reservation in panchayats and the state education sector. Another section that will come out in huge numbers and vote for me is the new generation of Bihar. The young in Bihar has found a connect with the outside world. They are forward-looking and know that they have a glorious past and the time has come to restore it. This never happened in Laloo’s time.