Mayawati as PM? Why not, asks Lalu

February 15th, 2008 - 12:47 pm ICT by admin  

By Faraz Ahmad
New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) She may not be politically with him right now, but Railway Minister Lalu Prasad feels there is nothing wrong if Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati aspires to be prime minister one day. “Why not? That is a very good thing,” the leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said in an interview when asked how he felt about the rising ambitions of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief.

Lalu Prasad also took some credit for the emergence of Mayawati as a major political actor.

“It is the consequence of our movement that today Mayawati, the poor daughter of a Dalit, is ruling the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh,” Lalu Prasad told IANS.

He was referring to the mass protests he and some of his present-day political friends and foes led in Bihar in the 1970s, sparking political changes that led to the awakening of social forces that had been traditionally marginalized.

In the next decade, the BSP, its vote bank then largely confined to Dalits, began to grow from strength to strength in adjoining Uttar Pradesh.

“Thanks to the foundations we laid through our movement for social justice and communal harmony, the flag of social justice is flying all over the country,” he said.

“Many leaders have gone here and there but the fact remains that all of them are a product of the movement we launched for social justice and communal harmony.”

Lalu Prasad, Ramvilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav are among those who were student leaders in Bihar in the 1970s.

Reminiscing about how he was once anathema to the upper castes in his home state, Lalu Prasad said the high caste Hindus could no more foist their leader over Bihar.

“They have to accept (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar as their leader. Nitish is also a product of the same movement. That is our achievement.”

Lalu Prasad defended the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition and government.

“This is surely a very good period. The country is being governed through a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) and all partners in the government are consulted on important issues,” he said.

But he heaped criticism on the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government, where the ruling partners are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).

“Atrocities are being committed against the Dalits, the minorities and poor people under the present dispensation,” he said.

“The bureaucracy and the feudal classes who never raised their head when I was the chief minister are ruling the roost. The poor are not being allowed to air their grievances. Even BJP legislators are unhappy.”

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