BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha has been firing salvos at the Narendra Modi government for some time. Speculations are rife that he might be fielded or supported by the mahagathbandhan in the next elections. In an interview to Giridhar Jha, he spells out why Laloo remains a force to reckon with in Bihar. Excerpts:
Laloo Prasad has been a key factor in Bihar but will he remain one in the next Lok Sabha polls in view of his present condition?
Laloo could be the biggest factor. There is a general perception that he is a victim of political vendetta. I am not saying anything against the court verdicts, but that’s the general impression.
Do you think it will have any bearing on the poll scenario?
Laloo will be the giant and the giant killer with his undying spirit. He has given a sense of pride to the underprivileged. If a rickshaw-puller can today take on a policeman in Bihar to assert his rights, the credit goes to Laloo.
In poll after poll, Laloo’s party has polled 18 to 20 per cent votes. What reasons do you ascribe to it?
Though some call my friend Ram Vilas Paswan the mausam vaigyanik (meteorologist), the biggest mausam vaigyanik in a positive sense in Indian politics is Laloo. He is an earthy politician, a hard nut to crack, a man of principles.
But he must be demoralised after facing setbacks in the fodder scam cases.
He possesses an indomitable spirit. When I met him at the Ranchi hospital soon after he was handed a jail term of 14 years, I reassured him that he would be all right and come out soon. Now, Tejashwi has generated a craze among the youth. I found tremendous enthusiasm among RJD cadres. It can give sweeping results in his favour in the polls.
What are his other strengths?
There is the Muslim-Yadav social equation which makes him so formidable. Besides, he is the pivot around which the opposition has united. Leaders like Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha have joined him; others are expected to do so. The JD(U)-BJP reunion, after the people had given a massive mandate to the mahagahbandhan in 2015, will have an effect. I wonder if all these factors would get us (NDA) the tagline of the ad campaign, dhoondhte rah jaaoge (you won’t be able to find us anywhere), after the polls. Laloo has an earthy sense of politics and is connected to the grassroots. He has unmatched determination and commitment.
Your detractors claim that you have turned against your party because the PM did not make you a minister?
It is a prime minister’s prerogative to make somebody a minister but yes, my supporters are disappointed. Were there any corruption charges against me? Or anything adverse about my performance as Union minister? Laloo says that somebody who lost even in a Modi wave was given four portfolios. Another person who lost the polls was made the human resource minister.
But aren’t you hurt after receiving such treatment from your party?
It is because of my acceptability across parties that they are unable to oust me from the party. I have felt very hurt by the way they treated me. I had joined BJP when it was a two-MP party in the Lok Sabha. At times I wonder if I had joined only to get such treatment due to a prevailing personality cult in the party. I have been a vote catcher who draws crowds across the country. Still, they have been humiliating me. They don’t even invite me to any ceremony in my own constituency Patna Sahib.
There is already talk that BJP may not give you the ticket this time.
I’ve heard that I may not be fielded by the BJP from Patna Sahib. But no top leader has ever spoken to me. I have won the Lok Sabha elections twice from Patna Saheb with record margins. I am now ready for any situation but…am not going to leave the Patna Sahib seat. But let me tell Outlook, Laloo has assured me that he will extend unconditional support and not field any candidate against me regardless of which party I choose to contest from.