'They gave Nitish their votes to bring progress. But he forgot this and got involved with his own political interests. That is not done. So he was rejected.'
'Lalu is a symbol of anarchy. He is the symbol of regressive politics.'
BJP General Secretary Dharmendra Pradhan discusses Lalu, Nitish, and his strategy to bring Bihar in the BJP's fold, with Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com
Dharmendra Pradhan was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar in 2012, although he hails from Angul in central Orissa.
This cheerful, young, member of Parliament was given the special responsibility of making sure Bihar voted decidedly saffron this election.
His work paid off handsomely, with the Bharatiya Janata Party winning 22 of Bihar's 40 Lok Sabha seats.
The television screen in his office, in room 25, at the BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road is, of course, beaming the results, even as outside his door a giant party is in progress, as BJP party workers congregate in the atrium -- in the view of sombre statues and portraits of Swami Vivekananda, L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- to watch the results on a large screen, cheering and whooping.
Pradhan, left, below, interrupts the interview to watch Congress President Sonia Gandhi concession speech and comments, not unkindly, that although Sonia comes across as "strong", Rahul seems "foolish."
You had, in a recent interview, predicted that 40 per cent of Bihar will vote for Modi. It is way above that figure. Tell us about the success story for which you were responsible.
Since long, Bihar has had a samajik gatbandhan (social tie-up) with the National Democratic Alliance, right through the mid 1990s -- in the 1999 election, in 2004-2005 in both the assembly and parliamentary elections, in the 2009 election and the 2010 assembly election -- along with the JD-U (Janata Dal-United).
There was a certain social combination within Bihar's society that had aligned itself with the NDA.
(Bihar Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar betrayed that connection with the combination. Tod diya (broke it). Due to his own arrogance, and his own power-hungry nature, he miscalculated Bihar's mindset.
The BJP inherited that social coalition (and they are now aligned with the NDA). That's the primary cause of success.
So what happened to Lalu Prasad Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal? He was meant to make specials gains in this election?
This social combination is not aligned with the RJD. Lalu ke paas tha nahin (Lalu didn't have it).
Many had predicted that Lalu might gain votes based on the anti-incumbency factor. How did the RJD lose so badly?
Lalu thought he would get away because of his brazen communication skills. Vote nahin tha unke saath (The vote was not with him). Bihar's social combination is not with him.
Bihar is a progressive state. Bihar has not ever voted based on regressive or retrospective theories. Futuristic kiya hai desh ke rajneeti ko dhyan mein rakhte hue (The state has always voted with vision keeping the nation's progress in mind).
Nitish and Lalu, both, miscalculated Bihar's mindset.
That's why Bihar's mandate has been so decisive this time. That's why they have given their vote to Narendra Modi. The whole society has given their mandate.
Many Indian states always vote carefully and quite differently for a Lok Sabha election, compared with a Vidhan Sabha election. Would you say Bihar is one of them?
When Bihar votes, it does so in a conscious and calculated manner.
That's Bihar's history.
Where did the 1974 student youth movement -- the Jayaprakash Narayan movement -- originate? It started from Bihar.
In the mid 1990s, a new force of social engineering evolved. A force that was against feudal society arose. Samajik nyay (social justice). That started in Bihar. That force underwent progressive evolution. Bihar ke nirnay ne desh ke politics ko prabhavit kiya hain (Bihar's decision influenced the country's politics).
About one month before the election, what was the ground reality when you began work there?
It was the same. The same as what is being reflected today. That it was in favour of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance).
But people kept saying that Lalu will get plenty of votes?
Kuch logon ki juban par tha (Only some people were saying that). I don't want to take their names, but some mediahouses intentionally created this kind of confusion.
Woh hone walah nahin tha, nahin ho raha hai, nahin hua (He was not getting the vote, was not possible he could get the vote and he did not get it).
Why did Bihar vote for Modi? What were the reasons for Bihari voters to back Modi?
Mein manta hu ki Bihar ka historical experience raha hain ki Bihar desh ke liye vote deta hain. National prospects par vote deta hain. (I believe that it has been Bihar's historical experience that it votes for India. It votes on national prospects).
Bihar is an aspirational community. The young community has voted. The women have voted against inflation, unemployment, corruption and for good governance. These national issues are also the issues for Bihar.
But Nitish Kumar also turned his attention to Bihar through his governance to these issues?
No, it was a joint venture. He is not enough by himself, though he thought he was. But Biharis did not think that way.
I will repeat that we have a social coalition in Bihar. He broke that, and the public tore him down. It is a social combination of the poor and of the socially and economically backward classes. It is a social combination that includes women. A social combination that includes the youth.
A social combination for an aspirational Bihar.
Yeh Laloo ke naam se ghabraye (They were scared of Lalu).
Yeh naraj ho gaya Nitish se: Yeh aapne kya kiya? Aap ko humne vote diya tha governance ke liye. (The public was upset with Nitish. What have you done? We voted for governance, they asked).
They gave Nitish their votes to bring progress. But he forgot this and got involved with his own political interests. That is not done. So he was rejected.
But why not Lalu?
Lalu is a symbol of anarchy. Lalu is the symbol of regressive politics.
Do you think Lalu is on his way out?
I hope so. Lalu's days are finally over. He won't be there in the future.
You have no respect for someone like Lalu?
On a personal level I have my own respect.
But politically Lalu's days are over?
I have my highest regard personally -- Laloo is a big mass communicator, according to me. But the kind of politics he pursues has been rejected by the people of Bihar.
How has Bihar voted caste-wise?
All societies have voted for the NDA.
Except the Yadavs...
No, even a few Yadavs are winning for us. How could we be winning otherwise? The Yadavs are part of that social combination. If that was not the case, how would we get 40 per cent of the voters in Bihar? We got the vote of all citizens.
Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party being part of the combination helped?
Yes. His vote bank joined. The Dalits had faith in the BJP and Modi.
So lining up the vote-banks is still very important in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?
There are many more states where you have to do that, but in UP and Bihar you have to work with this social combination -- I will not use the word caste -- you will have to know the social combination well.
Can you summarise your strategy to bring Bihar in the BJP's fold?
After the alliance broke with Nitish Kumar in June last year, we looked at two or three key things.
We worked on the social combination. We realised that in order to get that right, we needed to do the math and add more backward classes among our voters.
We had to add Dalit numbers. We needed OBCs (Other Backward Classes). We did a special drive among these various segments. We made special committees. We reached the district and grassroots levels. We did jan samparks at the panchayat level.
One of the most iconic figures of the backward classes in Bihar is the late chief minister Karpoori Thakur. We nurtured a special Karpoori Thakur Jayanti at a district level and then at the state levels. These were the kind of special drives we did.
We had a special movement for the fishermen. So we worked to unite different social segments -- we did organisation programmes, training programmes -- and small organised committees and local contact points.
October 27, 2013 was a turning point for Bihar politics. That was the day when most of the people of Bihar came with us, because of what happened at that rally. A series of bomb blasts that killed 6 and injured scores of others. But people still hung on.
Modi went on the second or third day to see the victims' families. Bihar became emotional. Chalo yeh aadmi mein dum hai. Ink eke saath rahna chahiye. (This guy is alright, we must stay with him).
Also, Modi belongs to the backward classes just like Bihar's majority population. That's why they felt a sort of brotherhood with him. He is one of ours. For the first time, one of our own wants to be the prime minister, they said.
Did you have any success with the Muslim vote?
Lalu and Nitish had just one plan -- tell the Muslims that Modi will 'eat you up.' I feel that even the Muslims did not believe them.
A hypothetical question: With the BJP's enormous success in Bihar, do you think Nitish Kumar will approach the BJP to repair the alliance with the future in mind? Will you entertain him?
We won't bother about Nitish. We have got the people's mandate. We got a majority on our own.
How long have you been working on bringing the Bihar voters to the BJP's cause? And why were you chosen for this task?
I have been working since 2010. This is the fourth year. The party decided to appoint me. It felt that some worker needs to focus on Bihar and they appointed a mazdoor (labourer) like me on the job.
The party leadership put faith in me, the senior state leadership worked with me and that helped me.
Image: A BJP supporter during celebrations outside the party headquarters in New Delhi. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters