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Rediff.com  » News » 'Wave' now seems a mild word, it is more like a BJP tsunami'

'Wave' now seems a mild word, it is more like a BJP tsunami'

Last updated on: March 11, 2014 17:34 IST

''Wave' now seems a mild word, it is more like a BJP tsunami'

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Archana Masih

'I won't be very, very surprised if we get 40/40 seats in Bihar. You may find it incredible, but I'm telling you that's the mood. The worst the states are being governed, the better the chances for Mr Narendra Modi and the BJP,' says Uday Singh, the two-time BJP MP from Purnia, where Narendra Modi addressed the third of his Bihar rallies in five months on Monday.

Uday Singh is brimming with confidence about a BJP sweep.

The MP's first foray into electioneering was in 1977 as campaign manager for his mother Madhuri Singh, also a two term MP from Purnia.

Coming from a family with a long association with the civil service and politics, he won the 2009 Lok Sabha election by nearly two lakh votes, the second-highest winning margin in Bihar.

His father T P Singh was India's first finance secretary while his elder brother N K Singh and two sisters have all served in the Indian Administrative Service.

N K Singh, a well-known bureaucrat, represented the Janata Dal-United in the Rajya Sabha.

The other family member in the fray this election is brother-in-law Nikhil Kumar, a retired Indian Police Service officer, who served as the former governor of Nagaland and police commissioner of Delhi.

Nikhil Kumar -- the son of former Bihar chief minister S N Sinha -- was also an MP in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004 to 2009) and recently resigned as governor of Kerala to contest from Aurangabad, Bihar, as a Congress member. His wife and Uday Singh's elder sister Shyama Singh represented Aurangabad from 1999 to 2004.

Uday Singh's personal foray in electoral politics began in 1991 when Rajiv Gandhi asked him to contest from Purnia, but he lost that election.

In 2004, he says he was preparing to fight as a Congress candidate, but the party entered into an alliance where the incumbent candidate, the controversial Pappu Yadav, was given the ticket instead.

Uday Singh was then fielded by the BJP and he defeated Pappu Yadav by about 12,000 votes. His huge majority in the subsequent election was against Pappu Yadav's mother who contested after her son was debarred by the court from contesting the 2009 election.

An alumnus of Delhi's St Stephen's College, Uday Singh did a short stint at the London School of Economics (he couldn't complete his education at both institutions -- he left Stephen's after two years to join his father's alma mater, the LSE, but had to return in six months to be with his mother who was distraught after his father's passing).

As he prepares for his fourth electoral battle, he told Rediff.com's Archana Masih that the breaking of the alliance with the JD-U came as a blessing in disguise, the doom that awaits Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and why he thinks Narendra Modi is like a breath of fresh air.

Yesterday (Monday) was Narendra Modi's third campaign rally in Bihar and it was in your home constituency of Purnia, how did it go?

There is a very short way of describing it. People were lapping up everything that Mr Modi was telling them. This was Mr Modi's most comprehensive speeches I have heard in a while which is also the view shared by most journalists who had come from Delhi and Patna.

He spoke for 58 minutes which is much more than the usual 40, 45 minutes. He covered a range of subjects, all of which was spoken in a colloquial manner, understood by all the people.

Be that as may, the mood of the people was as if they were telling him -- 'We have already given you our mandate, don't waste time -- just go there and repair things.' That really sums up the mood of the people here.

In the BJP leadership, apart from Mr Vajpayee, have you seen any other leader who can work the crowds like Mr Modi does?

I wasn't in the BJP in the heyday of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but as an observer from a distance I can tell you that he used to mesmerise the crowds.

He used to say things that went down very well with the people, but Mr Modi is a very different kettle of fish.

At his rallies, he comes across as a straightforward, honest, simple man -- like a breath of fresh air.

He speaks his mind and there is no ambiguity in what he says. He doesn't go about in a round about way promising this and that.

He says look it is lack of governance, integrity, will and decisiveness -- people take that in and are waiting for him to be PM.

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Image: A BJP supporter at a rally being addressed by Narendra Modi in Meerut, UP.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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'Nitish Kumar's style of functioning was extremely autocratic'

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Archana Masih

The BJP is expecting its biggest wins from UP and Bihar. As a two-time BJP MP from Bihar, how do you foresee the BJP's performance?

The meeting addressed by Mr Narendra Modi saw an unprecedented crowd in a place like Purnia. The crowd response was absolutely phenomenal.

If this is a sign of things to come, the chances for the BJP or for a credible anti-Congress, anti-regional party combine could never have been better.

The common factor about UP and Bihar is that they are very badly governed at the state level.

We already know what the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) is doing in Delhi, coupled with that if you have a bad state administration, the anti-incumbency feeling for both the Centre and the state combines to make it a very pro-BJP, pro-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) wave.

Actually, wave now seems like a mild word, it is more like a tsunami.

People are waiting, nobody will leave it to chance, but according to me the BJP doesn't even need to campaign here. People are just waiting for the opportunity to cast their votes.

You mean to say the BJP doesn't need to campaign in Bihar?

For example, in my constituency, I'll do the diligent work that is expected of a candidate, but I can assure you that the voters have made up their mind well in advance.

None of these rallies and shows of strength are really going to matter.

I see a completely pro-BJP, pro-NDA mood.

You say people are disappointed with the governance in these states, but till a few months ago the BJP was in alliance with the JD-U in Bihar.

It was, and we are not apologetic about it.

After the alliance has broken off, things have become only worse. The CSO (Central Statistics Office) data shows that the growth rate in Bihar is down from a high of 16 per cent to a low of 8 per cent; and the months correspond exactly to the period when the JD-U and BJP broke off.

Not that we were magicians, but we were doing something that was more possible and credible.

Secondly, even when we were in government and I was one of the first MPs to raise my voice against Mr Nitish Kumar -- his style of functioning was extremely autocratic.

I don't mind accepting the fact that for the sake of the NDA carrying on and for the sake of Bihar not returning to the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal), we sort of compromised with Mr Nitish Kumar to a large extent.

Even when we were part of government, things were not going exactly as planned.

It was certainly better than what it is today, but it wasn't exactly what we wanted or what our plan was.

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Image: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at the Janata Darbar in Patna.
Photographs: Archana Masih/Rediff.com

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'Blessing in disguise that the alliance broke off with the JD-U'

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Archana Masih

So do you think the breaking of the 17-year-old alliance has helped the BJP emerge stronger in Bihar?

There can be no better blessing and a blessing in disguise that the alliance broke off with the JD-U.

The JD-U's strong-arm tactics would have continued and the BJP would have continued to buckle under this wrong notion that Mr Nitish Kumar is value adding to our political strength in Bihar.

It was a myth and it remains a myth.

There were people like me in the BJP who were always saying that we would be much better off on our own. We are proving that and we are getting more confident by the day.

That alliance was basically a one-way traffic where all the benefits were accruing to the JD-U and Mr Nitish Kumar, while we were losing our base and strength.

How do you see the JD-U faring in this election?

I will be surprised if they are able to get one seat.

This is not coming from a BJP MP or a possible candidate for the next round of elections. It is coming from a person who knows the ground reality.

This disenchantment with the JD-U is such that it is far greater than the disenchantment level at any time during Lalu's time.

You say that, but Nitish Kumar was voted back to power because of his development image and by popular support.

Exactly. Exactly and it will take some time for people like you in Delhi and Mumbai to understand that all this while Mr Nitish Kumar was piggy-backing on us.

We were foolish enough to allow him to be carried on our shoulders and we were not really worried that all the credit was somehow being usurped by him.

If he was such a development man, what has happened to him in the last 8 months?

So why did the BJP not assert itself when you were in the alliance? Why did you allow yourselves to be the smaller partner?

Because the interest of the state was the over-riding factor.

We genuinely felt that to keep the RJD out -- which at that time had a substantial vote base in terms of its acceptance amongst the minorities and Yadavs.

That was a formidable combine and we felt that frittering away our votes between the JD-U and BJP would probably not be beneficial for both these parties, but perhaps be more beneficial to the RJD.

It is because of that that we made a NDA combine in Bihar.

I agree with you that we allowed ourselves to be the smaller party. There was no need for it and in every successive election -- in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha -- Mr Nitish Kumar kept badgering us to cede more and more seats.

In 2004, we fought 16 of the 40 seats. In 2009, he snatched away one more.

Our strike rate in the last Lok Sabha was exactly as the JD-U -- we got 12 out of 15 and he got 20 out of 25, but our strike rate in the 2010 assembly election was far superior than the JD-U.

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Image: Narendra Modi addresses a rally in Patna in October 2013.
Photographs: Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters

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'The people are yearning and dying for a change'

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Archana Masih

What about Lalu Yadav? He seems to have come out stronger out of jail in spite of his conviction in the fodder scam.

Look, when Mr Lalu Yadav was sent to jail on this count, I personally was not convinced. I had said at that time that this was not perhaps the treatment that he had deserved for the crimes that were supposedly committed or not committed.

There was much more tangible evidence against the present chief minster of having accepted money in the fodder scam than of Mr Lalu Yadav, but these are legal matters and I cannot comment on that.

When Lalu Yadav came out of jail, it did seem that he would ride on this great sympathy wave, but since then he has conducted himself in a manner that has left most in his party very disgruntled.

Today, Mr Ram Kripal Yadav, a stalwart of the RJD, a founding member and one of the few members of the RJD who is not only honest but is regarded as an activist and worker, has left the party and is joining the BJP.

It all goes to show how Mr Lalu Yadav is conducting affairs in his party. This has lost him a lot of support.

I don't see him ride any wave of sympathy anymore.

Your brother N K Singh was not given a renomination to the Rajya Sabha and instead given the Banka Lok Sabha seat to contest by Mr Nitish Kumar, which Mr Singh refused.

Is Nitish Kumar taking a big risk by alienating old loyalists so close to the election?

It isn't a loss for Mr N K Singh not being in the Rajya Sabha any more. If it's a loss, it's a loss to Mr Nitish Kumar.

You lose somebody with the intellectual capacity of Mr N K Singh, it only means that Mr Nitish Kumar is losing a sense of where to take his party and what to do with his political future.

It is a bad commentary on how the chief minister of Bihar has started to think.

Your brother and you are in two different parties, how does it pan out in the family dynamics?

This has had zero effect as far as the family is concerned.

For a long time, the parties were different, but the political combine was the same.

When the political combine became different, we used to have a banter or two about which combine is better and he would support his and I would support mine.

It has had zero bearing on the family equation.

In terms of seats, hypothetically, how many do you reckon the BJP alliance will get in Bihar?

I won't be very, very surprised if we get 40/40.

Oh my God! Isn't that far fetched?

You may find it incredible but I'm telling you that's the mood.

The worst the states are being governed, the better the chances for Mr Narendra Modi and the BJP.

It is a blessing that the condition in Bihar is such that the people are yearning for change.


Image: Vendors wait for customers in Hajipur.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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