Pankaj Kumar | October 29, 2015
Manoj Sinha, minister of state for railways, is often praised by fellow MPs for his conduct in parliament. Elected from Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur Lok Sabha constituency, Sinha is sure that this election in Bihar is about development and not caste politics. In an interview with Pankaj Kumar, he accuses Nitish and Lalu of failing Bihar. Excerpts from the interview:
Is the BJP trapped in Lalu Yadav’s strategy of ‘forward versus backward politics’ as some of your leaders have been saying that the next Bihar CM will be from a backward caste?
No. We are exposing the lies of Mahagathbandhan (‘grand alliance’) which has no policy for development. They are trying to divide the society on caste lines. One cannot rule out the presence of caste in politics but we are fighting on development issues only. Our slogan is, “sabka saath sabka vikas”. We don’t want people of Bihar to be misled by the Mahagathbandhan.
But Giriraj Singh, who is a bhumihaar leader from the state, has said that the new CM will be from a backward or extreme backward caste.
Giriraj Singh has clarified that it was his individual opinion. Later, party president Amit Shah also said that the CM will be chosen by the party’s parliamentary board after elections. There should be no confusion on this. We are confident of our victory because we have a visionary leader in Narendra Modi. He believes that a nation cannot prosper without the development of a state like Bihar. This vision supported by party cadres and all castes and communities will make us win.
Your pre-poll alliance with Paswan, Manjhi and others is called social engineering. If you win, what would have worked – social engineering or Modi’s leadership?
The world is appreciating PM Modi’s leadership. People have shown tremendous faith in him. Wherever he goes, people come in large numbers to listen to him. His leadership and commitment towards BJP’s cadre and social engineering is making us win. Let me assure you that the party’s agenda is development and we are committed to stop the jungle raj part II in Bihar.
Nitish Kumar is often referred to as Vikas Purush for Bihar. You had an alliance with him for a long time. Now your party is finding faults with him. How do you explain this?
JD(U) and BJP had an alliance, which was based on mutual agreement. The BJP sacrificed its own interest to save the state from bad governance. Our coalition was working well and our government took several steps for the welfare of people. Nitish broke the alliance because of his high ambition –the chair of the prime minister. Ever since he decided to break the alliance, the state has been going through a rough phase. Law and order has deteriorated, people are feeling unsafe, even the police is being targeted in the capital and murder and loot have become common. This has happened after JD(U) joined hands with Lalu. Nitish has shown the height of political opportunism and his personal ambition is proving disastrous for the state.
Is it because you don’t have a leader of the stature of Nitish Kumar that you haven’t announced a chief ministerial candidate?
We have seven to eight capable leaders for the post. This (not declaring a CM candidate) is a strategy. We had declared a chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh but didn’t do the same in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand – where we won. BJP believes in collective leadership and the parliamentary board decides on a name for the post of chief minister. The same pattern will be followed in Bihar too.
Are you afraid of losing in Bihar the way it happened in Delhi after you projected Kiran Bedi as the CM candidate?
I don’t believe leadership was the sole reason for the loss in Delhi. There were other reasons as well. But Delhi cannot be compared with Bihar. Bihar is a big state while Delhi is a kind of large municipality.
What will be the criteria of selection of the CM – caste or merit?
Only merit will be the criterion.
Can you bank on your government’s performance at the centre for people in Bihar to vote for you?
Many key steps taken by the government have started benefiting people. Pradhan mantri jan-dhan yojana (PMJDY) has benefited more than 18 crore people. Special measures have been taken to give social security in the form of accidental insurance, old-age pension, and general insurance to people. MUDRA Bank guaranteeing a loan up to '10 lakh will further help some five crore people. This scheme is regarded as one of the best for generating employment. The government has done commendable work in improving infrastructure, especially, in railways, roads and ports. This will improve the economy. Beside generating employment these steps have brought investment as well which is higher than that in China.
Another important achievement is curbing corruption. The Modi government has successfully managed to curb corruption and development has become the focal point of the government.
Bihar is an agrarian state where each year farmers face problems either due to harsh and prolong drought or repeated floods. Does your government have any specific scheme to address this major issue?
The BJP government has taken important steps to meet the needs of farmers. The prime minister’s agriculture irrigation scheme was launched to facilitate irrigation. The government has decided to compensate the crop loss even if it is up to 30 percent. Earlier farmers were compensated only when 50 percent crops were damaged or destroyed. Our government has decided to raise the compensation by one and a half times. There are many schemes in the pipeline that will make farmers’ lives secure. I cannot discuss these in detail as it would be a violation of the model code of conduct.
People of Bihar are largely dependent on trains as road connectivity is not as good as in other states. Are you planning to bring some changes in rail services in the state keeping in mind the rush during Chhath puja and extra pressure on some routes?
Ironically, Bihar has given many rail ministers including Nitish and Lalu. But both of them had miserably failed in improving the scenario in their state. In the last 16 months, we have spent four times more than what was spent by the UPA on improving the rail sector. We have completed two key bridges in Munger and Patna but their handover is yet to happen because of lack of cooperation from the state government. Once the elections are over, we will work this out. Among other ongoing projects, a bridge on the Ganga in Mokama, which is under construction, will provide better and faster connectivity. Because of heavy congestion, we are focusing on doubling and trebling lines to improve the services. The Indian railways is fully prepared to manage the rush during the upcoming festivals.
(The interview appears in the November 1-15, 2015 issue)
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