Paswan says NDA intact despite trouble in Maha, Haryana

Paswan says NDA intact despite trouble in Maha, Haryana

Paswan says NDA intact despite trouble in Maha, Haryana

BJP and its oldest ally Shiv Sena may have parted ways and the Modi wave may have taken a beating in the assembly by-elections but another key NDA constituent Lok Janshakti Party does not feel that it may be the beginning of the saffron coalition's erosion.

LJP chief and Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan also does not agree with reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was overwhelming in the Cabinet in which ministers had no freedom to function.

He says Lok Sabha elections and assembly polls are different from each other and issues are different.

"Modi says he will not target Bal Thackeray. Shiv Sena says it will not attack BJP at the Centre and would be part of the NDA coalition. This sums up the relationship among allies at the Centre," Paswan told PTI analysing the coalition troubles at the state level and downplaying their impact at the national level.

Seeking to soft-pedal the electoral reverses of BJP in recent assembly bypolls in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand and the break up of BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra, he asserted the ruling alliance is intact and there is no bickering among allies.

Giving full credit to Narendra Modi for the victory of the alliance in Lok Sabha polls, Paswan, whose party LJP is an ally of NDA in Bihar, said the state elections are a different ball game where every party has to face the pressure of its cadres and the break-up of NDA alliance in Maharashtra should be seen in this context.

"BJP-Shiv Sena break-up in upcoming Maharashtra assembly polls is not a sign of the NDA alliance collapsing. In Maharashtra, even Congress-NCP could not fight the election together. State elections are a different ball game. Workers of all parties pressure the leadership for tickets. The leaders of parties have to accommodate the maximum," Paswan said.

He was asked whether the internal tussle among allies of NDA has begun too soon as while Shiv Sena parted ways from BJP in Maharashtra, another ally Shiromani Akali Dal is supporting INLD-JD(U) alliance in Haryana.

Paswan also declined to accept that the reverses of BJP in assembly by-elections indicate any disenchantment of voters with NDA but agreed that Lok Sabha election was fought in a different milieu.

"Lok Sabha election is different. On the one hand, there was anger against UPA while on the other hand BJP presented Narendra Modi's face as a strong option, which people accepted.

"Votes mainly came in the name of Modi, proving wrong all predictions by political pundits. Credit goes to Modi for the victory. Elections in states happen differently," he said.

Citing the example of 2009 by-elections in Bihar, which had thrown up good results for Lalu Prasad's RJD and LJP, who had an alliance then, Paswan reminded that the results were not repeated in 2010 assembly polls in Bihar, which returned a BJP-JD(U) combine to power with a massive majority.

"Bye-elections are all the more different and may not impact the outcome of a full-fledged elections," he said.

The LJP chief, whose party was the first major political outfit to hitch its wagon to Narendra Modi-led BJP before the Lok Sabha polls, also dismissed speculation that ministers do not have a free hand in the new dispensation.

"It is wrong to say the ministers do not have freedom to speak. There is no ban on ministers from airing their opinions. Modi government means work. It is also not proper that ministers go on speaking and painting a rosy picture of their departments while doing nothing on ground.

"I do not believe that ministers do not have freedom to work. Rather, the ministers are asked now to do more work in a time-bound manner and with fixed targets," he said.
To a specific question why he, despite being a Cabinet Minister holding the portfolio of Food, was not included in the crucial Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) as was done earlier, Paswan said there is no such hard and fast rule that food ministers have to be accommodated in CCEA.

"I also go to the CCEA meetings, when food security issues are there. One minister cannot be in all committees," he said.

Paswan was not included in CCEA when Prime Minister Narendra Modi reconstituted the six Cabinet sub-committees in June this year. His name was also not included in the three special invites to CCEA which is tasked with taking crucial economic decisions.

Though Paswan evaded a direct answer as to whether he feels uncomfortable with issues like 'Love Jihad', which was raised before Uttar Pradesh assembly bypolls, he said "one is an English word (Love) and the other is Urdu (Jihad). I fail to understand its meaning."

He said he welcomes RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat's pitch to end casteism but believes that caste system can be weakened in the most effective manner by encouraging inter-caste and inter-religion marriages.

"Reserve seats for those who go for inter-caste and inter-religion marriage. While people of different castes and religions have now begun eating together, they still do not marry outside their caste and community largely. We have seen couples going for inter-caste marriages being killed in Haryana and elsewhere," he said.

Asked about a recent newspaper article by his close confidante Abdul Khaliq attacking "hate mongering" by some BJP leaders and the "Love Jihad" pitch, Paswan said Khaliq is a "thinker" and has been writing on social issues for a long time.

"In the article itself, he had described that the views expressed were his personal opinion. He had also praised Modi," Paswan said, adding that in the past Khaliq had also attacked Congress-led UPA on Muslim issues.

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