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The Rediff Interview/Ram Vilas Paswan

'There are hot words, there are disagreements, but things settle down after sometime'

The Janata Dal, which is the principal constituent of the coalition United Front government, is constantly affected by internecine squabbles in the upper rung of its leadership. Strangely, the centre of many of these controversies is the Bihar chief minister, who is also the JD president.

Laloo Prasad Yadav has made no secret that he is the kingmaker and that his influence in the UF government is considerable. This has not gone down well with the prime minister who has been distancing himself from Yadav.

H D Deve Gowda has increasingly turned for advice and counsel to Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who is also the leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. Yadav has sought to rattle his senior party colleagues by meeting Congress president and former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao twice in the course of the last fortnight. The Bihar leader knows his meetings with Rao will upset his party colleagues and others in the UF government.

Paswan discusses the relationship between the prime minister and Yadav, in this interview withTara Shankar Sahay.Excerpts from the interview:

Janata Dal President Laloo Prasad Yadav's meetings with Narasimha Rao is now the main topic of discussion in political circles.

I have also heard about it.

The JD is the main constituent of the UF government and, therefore, will Yadav's meeting Rao not be injurious to your party's interests?

Frankly, I think that this question should be directly at Mr Yadav, our leadership is not unaware about important political developments.

So the JD leaders are upset, aren't they?

The prime minister and other party leaders know what is going on. As far as the JD leadership is concerned, it knows its strength.

Do you mean to say the Rao-Yadav meetings are being ignored by your party leaders?

Nothing is being ignored. I mean, if the party president has met his counterpart in the Congress, that's his business. But I say this: Mere meetings between leaders of different parties means nothing for the stability of the United Front government.

It is said you are the bone of contention between Deve Gowda and Yadav.

What do you mean?

That ever since the prime msinister has increased his dependence on you for advice on government matters, Yadav has started feeling resentful.

Is it my fault? Am I to blame for it? Whenever the prime minister seeks my opinion, I give it. Too much is being made that I am Mr Deve Gowda's new-found confidante.

But are you not?

Your journalists are the best judge (laughs).

Is not a coincidence that Deve Gowda now looks more and more to you and Sharad Yadav about crucial decisions than Laloo Yadav. Is it not proof that the Bihar chief minister and the prime minister are no longer as warm about each other as they were earlier.

As I said you people are the best judge. But don't read too much about these things. They happen in a coalition government, especially at the Centre. There are hot words, there are disagreements but things settle down after sometime.

Right now temperatures are rising among senior leaders in your party.

So what? They will cool down. The rainy season has come (laughs).

What about the assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh? How will the UF constituents perform?

I don't want to make predictions. But our endeavour is to defeat communal forces as represented by the BJP and victory of the forces of social justice.

Are you the unchallenged dalit leader in the country?

I am a leader and I have a huge following among the dalits and oppressed classes.

Laloo Yadav recently said that Deve Gowda is incompetent to be prime minister.

No comment. (as an afterthought) But it does no credit to the leader of our party to criticise the prime minister.

The Rediff Interview

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