Lok Sabha elections will be held on schedule said Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution dismissing speculation that the NDA will seek mandate for another term in 2018 itself. Mr Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party is an NDA partner, told Pramod Kumar that advancing Lok Sabha polls has never been a good strategy. Mr Paswan is the only leader to serve as Union minister under six different Prime Ministers.
Several leaders of the BJP have supported the idea of an early Lok Sabha election. Will the government call elections by the end of this year instead of April-May 2019?
Being an NDA partner, I can confidently tell you that Lok Sabha polls will be held on time. Advancing Lok Sabha polls has never been a good idea at all. People are aware of the outcome of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s decision to advance the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
President Ram Nath Kovind’s pitch for simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in his Parliament address fueled speculation of an early election. What are your views on holding national and Assembly elections simultaneously?
The need for holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies has been voiced for several years now. Even a parliamentary standing committee examined the issue and submitted its report. It was referred to the Law Commission and the Election Commission of India. While the desirability of holding simultaneous elections is undeniable, the problem lies in the implementation.
What are these problems ?
The basic problem in holding simultaneous elections is that the terms of the Lok Sabha and the state Assemblies do not coincide though that was the original intent of the Constitution. Holding simultaneous polls will be tough for the Election Commission also which is stretched both in terms of staff and funds. A logistical challenge for the EC would be procuring EVMs, two to three times more than their present number.
Be specific. Are you in favour of holding early Lok Sabha polls or not ?
I would like to repeat the slogan of Prime Minister — Sabka saath, sabka vikas. With this slogan the NDA will win 2019 Lok Sabha polls with thumping majority. That’s all I would like to say.
Ahead of 2019 elections, why are the BJP’s allies upset? What would you like to say about the cracks appearing in the NDA? The BJP’s oldest ally, Shiv Sena, is not happy and its southern partner TDP is annoyed.
It’s not like that. The NDA is intact and there is no question of resentment at all. We work like a family. I am sure that the issues raised by certain allies, which you also have mentioned, will be resolved amicably.
Apart from major regional players, smaller parties too, like Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP in Bihar, are angry that the BJP joined hands with JD(U) in Bihar?
I would not like to comment on that. I will only say that the leader of dalits and mahadalits is Ram Vilas Paswan and I am with the BJP-led NDA. The support for me is not divided on caste lines, people of all castes like me. The voters of Ram Vilas Paswan in the entire country are with me, they are not bothered about issues which are being raised by the Opposition parties. Dalits and mahadalits are with me only, they are not with anybody else, especially in Bihar.
Contrary to your claims, former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is also a partner of the NDA, says “he is the real leader of the dalits in the state, and not you”.
What should I say to that? He knows the answer. No need to further react on that. People of my state know that I am the only leader of dalits and mahadalits. The chapter is closed now. One can claim anything but it’s difficult to prove. I have proved it.
What would you like to say about your arch political rival and your old friend RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav who has been convicted in the infamous fodder scam?
Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family have no political future. He is now finished. Not only fodder scam, they are facing several other corruption cases as well. Mr Yadav and his family also amassed property using shell companies set up by other people and then bought back the companies along with the landholdings. The electorate of Bihar will not vote for his party again.
The RJD leader alleges that the court verdict depicts a conspiracy by the BJP and chief minister Nitish Kumar to defame Mr Yadav. Is that so?
Let them say whatever they want to say. It’s a judicial decision; we should not react on it. All the corruption cases in which they (RJD leaders) are involved are very old; that was the time when they (RJD leaders) were at the helm of affairs. They should think twice before leveling such allegations.