The Tuesday Interview | People willing to give I.N.D.I.A. the driving seat; Naidu, Nitish may not be comfortable with PM's megalomaniacal politics: RJD's Manoj K Jha

RJD senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K Jha spoke to DH’s Shemin Joy about the new government, his party’s performance in Bihar and how it is preparing for Assembly elections.
hemin Joy
Last Updated : 11 June 2024, 03:13 IST
Last Updated : 11 June 2024, 03:13 IST

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After a marathon election that saw an acrimonious campaign, the BJP-led NDA government was sworn in on Sunday. Some allies have already made some noises. RJD senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K Jha spoke to DH’s Shemin Joy about the new government, his party’s performance in Bihar and how it is preparing for Assembly elections.

The Modi government has been sworn-in. Do you think the mandate has sobered the BJP now?

First of all, I disagree with your description that it is a Modi government. Even Modi has stopped saying Modi government. He calls it the NDA government. It is the very fact that somebody who always loved to speak through the language of I, me, myself has to bring in the idea of a collective, which is the NDA. That tells you what this mandate has  actually done.

So are you saying the mandate is not for a BJP government?

Look, you aimed so high -- 350 on your own and 400 with allies -- and the results showed that you are dented and bruised very badly. People have told you that this is the language of arrogance. This is taking democracy and the will of the people for granted. You (BJP) struggle at 240, which is 32 behind the majority mark. So frankly speaking, people have given a message to the Prime Minister to tone down his language. Indians are not used to rhetoric on mujra, mangalsutra etc. You should speak on core issues, which impacts people's lives and livelihood. This message is there for the BJP. If they fail to read it, I have no qualms in saying that it will be 40 seats less in the next elections. 

You say the results have a message for the BJP. What are the messages for I.N.D.I.A; bloc from these elections?

The first message is that we need to look at preparedness a little more seriously. Number two, we have been able to communicate the message to the ordinary electorate very effectively and now this effort should go up. Thirdly, we should always maintain the idea of the collective, which is the opening line of our Constitution -- We The People. I think people have spoken their mind. They are willing to give us the driving seat. It is just a matter of a few more seats which will bridge the gap.

But the results in Bihar are not that enthusiastic for the RJD and I.N.D.I.A. bloc. What are the reasons behind that?

Look, you should compare our results with 2019 results. The victory margin for the BJP then was over three lakh votes except in a few seats, which has now been brought down to thousands. This in itself is a major victory. We are analysing booth level data and we will go into detail analysis. We were aiming to get at least 15 to 18 seats but we got only ten. Maybe, multiple factors were at work. The fact is last time we were zero. So it is a journey from there and we have given shocks to the BJP in many places. Three-term, four-term MPs have lost. Apart from our leaders from other parties, RJD's Tejashwi was the main star of this campaign. In spite of pain, he continued. The results may not be as per our expectations but this is not the first and the last election. We are on the upswing and we shall be seen more effectively in the coming days.

You say you have prepared well for the state Assembly elections in Bihar. What have you learned from Bihar this time specifically?

I should put this on record. Tejashwi Yadav's continuous engagement with the issue of jobs and taking this to people had, in fact, made the Prime Minister very jittery about it. Now, Tejashwi is not going to leave this issue. When we have the next election in Bihar, our campaign will be solely on life and livelihood issues, jobs being the most prominent one. We are going to enter the field, probably within 3-4 weeks.

There is an interesting comparison on the performance of Samajwadi Party in UP and the RJD in Bihar. People say SP with its social engineering managed to win more seats while the RJD failed to do social engineering. Is this analysis correct?

This is an analysis in haste. When you just look at the numbers and don't look at the background of the numbers, such analysis does not hold true. We are very happy for what has happened in Uttar Pradesh but we must tell you Bihar is a different state. We have different kinds of challenges and we understand them. We have met those challenges to a great extent. As far as social coalition is concerned in Bihar, we actually made our important intervention in terms of social coalition. The result of this could not be seen immediately. But mark my words, it shall be seen very effectively in the next Bihar Assembly elections.

With Opposition numbers on the upswing, can we expect a different Parliament now?

For the first time in ten years, the Parliament will look like Parliament. I hope everybody, including presiding officers, know what is the will of the people. The will of the people is an overwhelming support for opposition. For the ruling party, it is a majoritarian Prime Minister without the majority. This should reflect in the debate. There should not be any passing of bills in five minutes. Bills should go for scrutiny as was the practice earlier. We cannot have a 'my way or highway' attitude. They are duty bound to the call of dialogue because that is what the Indian electorate's message.

Do you think Nitish Kumar also has got this message? How does TDP, JD(U) impact the running of the government?

Everybody has got that message. Have you heard Hindu-Muslim rhetoric in mainstream media in the last 5-6 days? In spite of all the differences with Nitish-ji, we can say that the Prime Minister or his ministerial colleagues cannot go on saying Hindu-Muslim like they did earlier. There is one particular Minister from Bihar. I have not heard him speak Hindu-Muslim in the last five days. I think this toning down of the divisive and polarising discourse again is another message from the electorate.

We are seeing a lot of trouble on the first day of the NDA government. Do you think this coalition government would work?

I would say watch out. I have been telling people that this is actually a marriage of convenience. In fact, it is a marriage of contradictions and such marriages do not last long. You do not see the signals of divorce in the early stage of marriage, that is the honeymoon period. N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) and Nitish-ji (JD-U) come with a particular social political background and that background is not comfortable with individual centric, megalomaniacal politics which is perpetuated by the Prime Minister.

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Published 11 June 2024, 03:13 IST

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