The largest party to have emerged in Lok Sabha, the BJP, does not have even one Muslim MP. The NDA has just one Muslim MP, which is you. Your views on this?
The fact that there is a combination of parties in the NDA that has got 353 seats and yet there is only one Muslim MP is definitely a matter of concern. I feel more nominations should have been given by the BJP and the NDA at large. Obviously, this needs to be relooked.
The heartening thing this time is that the Prime Minister has unequivocally said ‘sabka saath sabka vikas and sabka vishwas’. It should augur well for the Muslim community in future provided they accept the olive branch. I think he means it, especially with the kind of mandate he’s got this time. His stature has gone up not only in India but worldwide and it should be another feather in his cap if he anoints the sentiments of Muslims in general and minorities at large.
You are saying it is now upon Muslims whether they decide to accept the olive branch. But many claim that Muslims were sidelined by the BJP government in the last five years. There were many cases of violence against Muslims. Your take?
Such incidents might happen but the thing is to vehemently oppose them, which is what the PM has done of late which was unfortunately missing in the past. The utterances of Pragya Thakur were forcefully condemned by the Prime Minister. His heartening statement to win the ‘vishwas’ (trust) of minorities was mainly hinted at Muslims. The PM realises there is lack of trust among minorities towards the ruling dispensation, which he is trying to address.
If the PM makes a strong comment about some incident, it does carry a lot of weight and goes down to the lowest level. By reaching out to the minorities, he has sent a strong message that these kinds of incidents will not be tolerated and we need a cohesive India. The PM needs to take all the sections of society together so that a very strong India, a new India emerges.
What do you think contributed to your alliance’s historic win in Bihar? Was it the popularity of Modi? Do you agree with the argument that this election was fought entirely on Modi ji’s name?
It was a combination of factors. The kind of alliance we formed in Bihar, namely the BJP, the JD(U) and the LJP, my party, was a very formidable combination. Of course, the number one factor was the Modi wave — the feeling that India needs a very strong and powerful government. But the fact that on economic and development front, the government didn’t fare badly and the fact that Nitish ji came into the NDA fold was also a great support to the alliance because his development plank in Bihar has done well. Also, Nitish ji has done a lot for the minorities in Bihar.
Our chief Ram Vilas Paswan ji, who has been in politics for 50 years, was, of course, an important factor in the Bihar victory.
He is known for his social standing and he takes along with him all the weaker sections of society — the minorities, the Dalits, the farmers etc. This combination together was a very formidable combination. Not to say that the other alliance was weak.
On paper, they looked formidable, too, but when disparate individuals come together without any ideology, it doesn’t percolate down to the grassroots. This is what happened and the results are out for everyone to see. Except one seat, it was a complete washout for other parties.
The vote share of LJP, which also won all its six seats, also increased to 7.88% from 6.40% in 2014. What contributed to it?
The LJP’s constituencies remained the same and all MPs worked hard and did well. The result is indicative of the hard work. I can speak for myself I did my best and probably I also contributed to a rise in the vote share. All of us did our bit and the hard work paid off.
Ram Vilas Paswan maintains his record of being the perfect political weathercock. Did you sense a ‘Modi wave’ in the country before exit polls, and the results confirmed it?
Nobody had an idea that it would be such a wave as people are now calling it. Even we couldn’t get that and probably the voters didn’t let the feelings out then. Eventually, it was a tsunami. I sensed that there was solid support for Modi ji when I was doing the rounds of my constituency. But we could not gauge that it would be that strong.
How do you read Modi’s speech where he talked about reaching out to the minorities and make efforts to see to that Muslims stop living in fear? Why is there an impression that Muslims are living in fear and what efforts, as an NDA ally, will you make in this regard?
In my constituency and in a lot of places in Bihar, that fear is not there. But by and large, there is a kind of disconnect between the BJP and the Muslims.
This was exacerbated by the lynchings and a few very rabid utterances by some political leaders which were in very bad taste and such kind of utterances should never be made. The only thing is that these things should have been condemned, as our Prime Minister has done now.