NEW DELHI: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar could emerge as a “strong candidate” for prime minister in 2024 if
parties agreed to consider him for the job, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said on Sunday.
Kumar, who recently swapped alliance partners by dumping the Bharatiya Janata Party and returning — for a second time — to the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, enjoys “immense goodwill” on the ground, Yadav told PTI in an interview.
The coming to power of the Mahagathbandhan, which now comprises the JD(U), the RJD, the
and several small parties in Bihar, “augurs well for opposition unity”, said Yadav who has made a comeback as deputy chief minister in Bihar’s new government.
“It signals that most of the opposition parties recognise the larger challenge before the country — the hegemony of the BJP, where on the back of money, media, and (administrative) machinery power, they are determined to stamp out all diversity from the Indian society as well as from the political spectrum,” the RJD leader told PTI.
It is also a question of regional representation and social justice and development issues at the level of states, Yadav said.
“For all their talk of cooperative federalism, the BJP’s attempt has been to consistently ignore regional disparities. Bihar needs special attention, nobody can deny it. But have we got anything from the Centre? Not quite.”
Yadav dismissed the BJP’s attempt to spread the fear that “Jungle Raj” will be back with the return of the Mahagathbandhan government.
“Jungle Raj” refers to the alleged state of lawlessness in Bihar when the RJD was in power in the state.
It is a “tired discourse” and a “classic case” of “crying wolf,” he said.
“People understand and see through these tactics to divert attention and mislead. Also, this is the age of social media and friends in mainstream media are not the only ones who control the discourse.”
The RJD leader underlined that regional parties and other progressive political groups have to look beyond their narrow gains and losses and save the republic, asserting that it will be very difficult to rebuild if “we don’t stop the destruction in its tracks now”.
Asked if Kumar is best-suited to be prime ministerial candidate for 2024 polls and if he could be the Opposition’s nominee, Yadav said, “I leave this question for Honourable Nitish ji. I cannot claim to speak on behalf of the entire Opposition, however, if considered, respected Nitish ji definitely might be a strong candidate.”
For the last 50 years, he has been a social and political activist, having participated in JP and reservation movements, Yadav said, adding that “he (Kumar) has more than 37 years of vast parliamentary and administrative experience and enjoys immense goodwill on the ground as well as among his peers”.
Kumar’s decision to break ties with the BJP, his ally since 1996 except for the period between 2013 and 2017, has fuelled speculation about his prime ministerial bid.
Asked about the several adverse comments he had made about Kumar when the JD(U) leader was in alliance with the BJP, Yadav said if one looks at the similarities and differences between them from a historical, national, contemporary and regional perspective, one will find a meeting of minds and objectives.
“We have emerged from the same churn of socialist movements and broadly share the same values. Sometimes there have been issues but none that are irreconcilable,” he said.
“Our comments against the previous government were made in the capacity of a responsive opposition. All the interventions made by me and my party colleagues were to make sure the government heard the people’s concerns and voices,” he asserted.
Asked about BJP leader Sushil Modi’s allegations against the new Mahagathbandhan government and calling him a de facto CM, Yadav said everyone is free to say what they want but it doesn’t mean that “we have to take such things seriously”.
On his promise of 10 lakh jobs and the talk around it, Yadav said, “We have started in earnest, firstly, by deciding to fill up existing vacancies on a priority basis. Thereafter, we will have a programme that will focus on incentivising job creation in various sectors where Bihar has an advantage.”
“While we get on with our work, I’ll appeal to the Union government again to give Bihar special consideration — the state has waited far too long. I want to remind respected PM Modi of the promises he made to the people of Bihar before both the general elections and the assembly elections,” he said.
Modi is Bihar’s prime minister as well and he should make good on his promises to the state, Yadav said.