- Ram temple agenda of the BJP, not NDA, Chirag Paswan said
- Ram temple has "dominated the actual issues", he said
- Rahul Gandhi "doing well for himself" with victory in 3 states: Mr Paswan
The Ram temple is an agenda of the BJP and not the NDA and it is time for a course correction, Chirag Paswan said in a powerful message to the bigger ally after its setback in the recent string of assembly elections in the three heartland states. The emphasis on temple ahead of the elections had "dominated the actual issues" and garbled the message of development, which is the agenda of the NDA, he said.
Ram mandir is the BJP's agenda and they are "free to push it," Mr Paswan told NDTV. "But when it dominates the rest of the issues that concern the common people -- that we need to rework... Don't push it to an extent where it over-rides all other issues," he added.
Last week, Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral, too, had a word of warning for the BJP, saying he didn't see "any single political party getting over 200 seats in the next election". The BJP, he said, will have to "quickly settle" with allies, including the cantankerous ShIv Sena, if it wanted to be the winner.
Mr Paswan, one of the BJP's key allies in Bihar, said most of the allies including his party and Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, were on the same page on the Ram temple issue. They were willing to wait for and accept the verdict of the Supreme Court, where the Ayodhya title suit is pending. But over the last months, many right-wing groups have started pushing the government for an Ordinance or executive order to bypass the legal process and begin construction at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Asked if his Lok Janashakti Party has made its stand on the temple clear to the BJP, Mr Paswan said at the outset of their alliance in 2014, he had told the BJP that theirs would be an "issue-based partnership".
About the Congress performance in the election, Mr Paswan had a good word for Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, and a reality check. Rahul Gandhi, he said, was "doing well for himself and he is pretty excited with the kind of victory he has managed in these 3 states".
Then he went on to add, "But I think there is nothing to get very excited about, because despite the anti-incumbency, the Congress had to try really hard and they have formed the government with a very marginal win."
Shiv Sena, the fractious ally of the BJP, has praised Rahul Gandhi and congratulated the voters of the three states for their "brave decision" of showing the door to the BJP.
Mr Paswan's Lok Janashakti Party has been at odds with the BJP over seat sharing for next year's national polls in Bihar. He, however, said the alliance was strong and even the NDA stood to win the general elections next year.