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Now the voice of Patna Sahib will not remain silent: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Ravi Shankar Prasad feels Nitish Kumar joining the BJP has made the NDA a powerful effective social combination and not just a political combination, as it represents all communities.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 27, 2019, 11.00 PM IST|Original: Apr 27, 2019, 11.00 PM IST
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​Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad is fighting his maiden Lok Sabha election from Patna Sahib
Ravi Shankar Prasad, a Rajya Sabha member and the law and IT minister, is fighting his maiden Lok Sabha election from Patna Sahib. He tells Prerna Katiyar the JDU-BJP-LJP alliance is a powerful and effective social combination in Bihar. Edited excerpts:

You are fighting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time. What are your election prospects, especially against former colleague Shatrughan Sinha?
One must understand that I am a political worker with some experience and understanding. I have been the party’s general secretary, chief spokesperson and the incharge of eight states as diverse as Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Bihar. I have made strategies for hundreds of MLAs. I have worked more than a Lok Sabha MP though I have been in the Rajya Sabha.

But both you and Sinha come from the Kayastha community. Won’t the votes get divided?
First of all, I have decided never to name him (Sinha) in any of my statements. I have decided to focus on hope versus opportunism. Patna Sahib has traditionally been a BJP seat. Five of the six MLAs from this region are from the BJP. People of Patna Sahib vote for the BJP as a matter of commitment. I do not do caste politics. I was born into a certain community. But my approach has been inclusive. Not just people from my own community, but all will vote for our party.

What is the agenda on which you are fighting?
The agenda is hope versus opportunism. Almost 90% voters here want to see Narendra Modi as PM. Secondly, NDA is very cohesive here. We have neta, neeti and niyat (leader, policy and intention) on our side. Modi as leader with Nitish and Paswan by his side is a formidable combination. And what is the counter-narrative? No leader, no programme and no common goal or commitment.

I will win with a conclusive majority. I would like to become an effective voice of the voters of Patna Sahib. I was recently asked what my reaction was to the incumbent (Sinha) not having asked a single question or making a single intervention in Parliament. I replied ‘ab Patna Sahib ki awaaz khamosh nahi rahegi (now the voice of the people of Patna Sahib will not remain silent)’. Plus, I have been working here for a long time.

Nitish Kumar was with the RJD in the 2015 assembly polls. Now he is back in the BJP. Will there be two-way vote transfer?
In 2015, we won 53 seats. Nitish joining the BJP has made the NDA a powerful effective social combination and not just a political combination, as it represents all communities.

What about minorities? Won’t they vote for the RJD?
You must have seen the kind of support we got from Muslim women during the nomination. Many of them have been victims of triple talaq. As a law minister and with the PM’s leadership, we got a legislation against triple talaq. There is a lot of support among minorities thanks to our digital skilling and other schemes. Who votes for who is not important. When we work, we work for sabka saath, sabka vikas.

Will you get a special category status for Bihar?
A lot of work is underway in that direction. The government has invested Rs 50,000 crore in roads and other things. In IT, a centre of excellence in coming up in Patna, another in Muzaffarpur. STPI expansion is happening in Patna. plants will come up in Bhagalpur and Darbhanga. Rs 2,000 crore is being spent on cleaning the Ganga in Patna. Barauni refinery, gas pipe grid project … all this is happening already. It is a continuous process and not a one-time package.

Still people in Bihar are forced to migrate to other states for jobs
There is a famous saying about Bihari boys: ‘even if there is an opportunity on the moon, they will go there’. I am aware that people migrate in search of work. We need to focus on job creation.

But many new opportunities are coming up here also. Roads are being build, investments are being made. I got eight BPOs to Patna, like I did in places such as Imphal, Kohima, Bhubaneshwar, Guwahati and Dibrugarh.

I got the metro train project to Patna, smart city plans are underway. My job after being elected will be to ensure that all good initiatives at the Centre have a powerful footprint here so that Patna Sahib becomes a centre of innovation and startups.

The BJP has again promised Ram Mandir in its manifesto. It did that in 2014 too.
The Ram Janmabhoomi issue goes beyond elections. We are committed to building a temple. We see it as a matter of national expectation — that a grand Ram mandir must be built at a place where we believe Ram was born in Ayodhya. There is extraordinary evidence to make an effective argument for the temple. What we expect is that the judicial process is expedited. The issue is 70 years old and it must be expedited. We are committed and we will ensure that a big Ram mandir is constructed there.

Is Lalu Prasad’s absence helping the BJP?
Don’t forget that he campaigned in 2014 yet the BJP won 32 seats with NDA partner Ram Vilas Paswan. The point is, RJD is not a credible option for Delhi in the eyes of the people of Bihar.

Priyanka Gandhi hinted she might fight the polls from Varanasi but she did not. How do you see this?

Obviously she did not want to become a sacrificial lamb. When you come into politics, your steps must be measured and not adhoc. There must be credibility in the course you take.

As law minister, what do you have to say on the allegations of sexual harassment against the Supreme Court Chief Justice?
I would not like to comment except to reiterate the independence, integrity and majesty of the Supreme Court must be maintained at all cost.

Your comment on the Supreme Court ordering a probe on the possibility of some people trying to fix the bench.
All of us must ensure that the impartiality, integrity and independence of the Supreme Court is maintained. Anyone who plays with it must face the consequences.

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