'Unlike past governments, we never protect or save criminals.'
Former Janata Dal-United MLA Umesh Kushwaha's elevation as the party's Bihar unit president surprised many political observers.
A relatively lesser known political face at the state level, Kushwaha has been appointed to the post clearly at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's behest.
Kushwaha belongs to the powerful OBC Koeri caste, the largest social group after the Yadavs in Bihar.
With Nitish Kumar's clout reduced within the National Democratic Alliance after a poor performance in last year's assembly election -- the JD-U has only 43 MLAs while its ally the Bharatiya Janata Party has 73 MLAs -- the chief minister selected Kushwaha -- who was defeated in the 2020 assembly election -- to strengthen his social support base among the Koeris to face an aggressive BJP.
"There is no question of the government sitting and watching crimes," Kushwaha tells Rediff.com Contributor M I Khan in Patna.
The NDA government in Bihar has completed two months in office and there are reports of growing bitterness within the NDA.
Is it a challenge for you as the Bihar JD-U president in view of the BJP's aggression?
There is no such thing because Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is running the NDA government as usual, like in the past. There are no differences within the NDA.
We (the JD-U) are with the NDA, any reports of bitterness are far from the truth. Only Opposition leaders have been spreading such baseless stories.
The JD-U is a strong party in Bihar with its leader Nitish Kumar, a popular face, widely seen as a development man (vikas purush). Our party is not a weak one.
But BJP leaders are targeting the Nitish Kumar government over the deteriorating law and order situation and irregularities in development schemes like the Nal Jal Yojna, considered the chief minister's dream project.
It gives the impression that the BJP is not happy with Nitish Kumar.
Look, the Nitish Kumar-led NDA got the mandate in last year's assembly polls. People have voted for Nitish Kumar as he was the face of the NDA and sought support for good governance and development.
The performance of the government is good and will perform better than in the last tenure.
Some BJP leaders might have made statements in their personal capacity because the top BJP leadership has been praising Nitish Kumar.
Even Prime Minister Modi lauded Nitish Kumar's development work and governance during the election campaign last year.
But BJP leaders including ministers, MLAs and MPs, have questioned the state police's failure to control rising crimes, which is seen as a bid to embarrass Nitish Kumar.
Look, in a democratic set-up anybody can say anything, I would not comment on what BJP leaders reportedly stated.
What about speculation that Nitish Kumar's government will not last after the West Bengal assembly election?
I can say it hundreds of times that there is no problem in the NDA. This government will last five years.
It is all part of gossip that the NDA government will be in trouble.
The NDA is united, but there will be a split in the Opposition Mahagathbandhan.
Photograph: M I Khan
Is there any basis for saying so?
I can't disclose anything right now. Unhappy Mahagathbandhan MLAs are in touch with NDA leaders and they are keen to join us to strengthen Nitish Kumar's hands.
Bihar and Nitish Kumar are in the news for the deteriorating law and order situation following the killing of IndiGo's station manager Rupesh Kumar Singh in the heart of Patna.
Why has Nitish Kumar failed to control crime, so much so that Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav is saying Bihar has become the crime capital of the country?
Nitish Kumar has never compromised on crime and will not do it. The government has directed the police to strictly deal with criminals and instructed it to take measures to control crimes.
There is no question of the government sitting and watching crimes.
Nitish Kumar has repeatedly made it clear that the police will deal as per the rules and assured a speedy trial of the criminals involved in the killing of IndiGo's station manager.
Since 2005 till date, our government's record is clear on how to deal with crimes and criminals. Unlike past governments, we never protect or save criminals.
Our focus is simply to continue the rule of law (kanoon ka raj) that was established by Nitish Kumar during his first tenure as chief minister from 2005 to 2010.
Tejashwi Yadav should first look into the records of his party RJD's rule from 1990 to 2005 and take care to read it before saying anything.
He should know that thanks to Nitish Kumar's rule of law, Bihar was ranked 23 in the country on the number of crimes reported.
But after the high profile killing of the IndiGo employee, BJP leaders demanded that the NDA government in Bihar adopt the Uttar Pradesh government's police encounter policy to get rid of criminals and improve law and order in the state.
It is seen as a big embarrassment for Nitish Kumar who has repeatedly made claims of 'sushasan' and 'kanoon ka raj' (good governance and rule of law).
It is their opinion, but the fact is that the state government and state police are adequate to deal with the situation.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com