Nitish Kumar’s proposed anti-BJP front remains a non-starter: BJD MP Mahtab

By Nirendra Dev

New Delhi : Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s call for a strong anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front remains a “non-starter” for many regional parties, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said here.

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He advised that the new Janata Dal (United) chief should clarify certain obvious political questions.

However, to a question, Mahtab outright rejected the contention that his party BJD often takes a kid-gloves approach towards the Narendra Modi government in Parliament.

“It is too early. The non-BJP front of Nitish Kumar remains a non-starter. And I am not blaming anyone. As things are still premature, Nitish Kumar and his party need to clarify certain things on the broad political ideology and the structure of the proposed alliance,” Mahtab told IANS in an interview here.

He said the proponents of such a front against the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should first spell out “the political ideology, its commitment and basic structures”.

“As a regional party going from strength to strength in Odisha, we will be interested to know how Nitish Kumar visualises the front. Whether it will be just an anti-BJP front or it will maintain equi-distance from the Congress also,” he said.

Mahtab said, “Bihar chief minister needs to clarify this, because he runs a coalition government with the Congress himself”.

As for BJD, he says: “We can have no truck with either the BJP or the Congress. It is simply because both these national parties are our chief rivals in the state.”

While the Congress is a traditional rival, the BJP came second in 10 parliamentary constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he said, adding, “we need to fight both”.

Moreover, he sought to caution that “the country’s electoral political history” is such that “aligning with the Congress has always harmed the regional and smaller parties, and helped the Congress”.

“In the 1970s, the Communist Party of India (CPI) aligned with the Congress and was wiped out. I am afraid the Marxists (Communist Party of India-Marxist) have repeated that blunder in West Bengal this year. I do not agree with the argument that Left will benefit and Congress will not,” he said, adding, “even in 2009 the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh had suffered a huge setback in Lok Sabha polls after it extended outside support to the Manmohan Singh government on the nuclear deal”.

“In Bengal, the Left supported the Manmohan Singh government from 2004 to 2008 and then was humbled both in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the 2011 assembly polls. Political observers seem to have bad memories,” he said albeit in a lighter vein.

Mahtab also suggested that Nitish Kumar should try to reach out to other regional parties. “So far as I can say, there has been no contact between chief ministers of Odisha and Bihar. There is no formal contact even at other political level,” he said.

The Cuttack MP also said Bihar chief minister also needs to clarify “whether his front would favour AIADMK or DMK in Tamil Nadu and similarly either the Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh”.

To a question, Mahtab dismissed suggestions that BJD often takes a soft approach towards the Modi government in Parliament.

“What makes you draw such contentions? Even the other day, we staged a walkout in Lok Sabha after Arun Jaitley (Finance Minister) spoke about the Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh,” he said.

Asked whether joining the NDA government under Narendra Modi would have been a “good move” by his party, Mahtab replied caustically : “We are happy being in the opposition. We have no regrets. No regrets, especially after seeing the fate of Shiv Sena and Telugu Desam Party, the two allies of BJP”.

Asked to comment on the economic roadmap of the Modi government, Mahtab said: “My Economics professor used to tell that an intelligent leader or a minister is the one who successfully convinces the poor that he is there to protect his interest and also in equal measure convinces the rich that he is going to protect them to the fullest extent. This is what we often see in this government. I would add in the context of tax policy as well, as they successfully collect tax from all”.