NEW DELHI: This is part of The Citizen series of interviews with senior political leaders on the results of the recent Assembly elections, with a firm eye on the message and strategy for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Janata Dal(U) leader KC TYAGI speaks his mind in this interview.


Q. Did you expect the results in Uttar Pradesh?

We did expect this. In the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh we were all in the same boat really, with the BJP getting 33 (of 54) seats in Bihar, and 73 (of 80) in UP. When the Assembly polls were due in Bihar, we worked to end all our differences and to counter the BJP with a broad based mahagathbandhan. This was despite the fact that we had severe differences with both the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, and yet Nitishji took the initiative, and denied tickets to 55 per cent of our sitting MLAs to accommodate the other two parties. The BJP was earlier in the lead in 147 Assembly constituencies and at the end of the polls was left in just 58.

Q. Clearly the alliance between the Congress and the Samajwadi party in UP was not enough?

It was not at all. It does not work this way. It was totally unpractical. In 18 seats these two parties were fighting against each other, and in 13 seats the Samajwadi had given candidates to the Congress to fight on their (hand) symbol as they did not have their own. The most backward castes who have been our backbone went unrepresented.

On the other hand, Amit Shah (BJP President) went out of his way to accommodate those that were not essentially his party’s vote bank. The Kurmi (OBC) vote for instance was part of this social engineering with Apna Dal being given as many as 11 seats by the BJP in UP. Shah brought in a backward Maurya as the state party chief.

The Congress and the SP did not even bother to extend this alliance and look at the OBCs. No one even called Nitish Kumar (Bihar CM) for even as a much as a how-do-you-do let alone a joint campaign. There was no effort to bring in Ajit Singh Rashtriya Lok Dal into the campaign. A SP-Congress-RLD-BSP alliance would have left the BJP far behind, but they were not even looking at it.

Q. So have they learnt a lesson? Do you think they can learn from this defeat?

The worrying part is that they now seem to be looking for excuses, and the EVMs is one such excuse. I somehow don’t think they will move ahead and seriously look at the reasons why they failed, the foremost being the leadership issue in the Congress. The effort seems to be to camouflage the defeat with the possible rigging of EVMs.

Q. What is a lesson from Bihar that could have made the difference, apart from the mahagathbandan?

A. A focus on socio-economic issues. A movement for social justice, there is no getting away from that. Expressway, expressway what is all that? How does that benefit the poor, the socially marginalised? There has to be much much more than that.

Modi was behaving like the saffron socialist!

Q. So what now?

Well all this has to be discussed frankly, honestly. The Opposition parties have to work on this.. You cannot defeat the BJP with this kind of piecemeal approach. If you remember, in Bihar, Nitish Kumar would hold a press conference every other day to dismantle the claims being made by Modi at his public meetings. Remember: “Mr Prime Minister your memory and geography has failed you” (laughs).

In UP they are behaving like caste federations!