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General category quota: Paswan confident to get BJP 10% more votes for 2019

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The measure for 10 per cent general category quota will boost the BJP-led NDA’s vote share by 10 per cent, paving the way for Narendra Modi’s re-election as Prime Minister, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Sunday, asserting that people will reject the opposition’s proposed grand alliance due to its inherent contradiction and instability.

The BJP ally and Lok Janshakti Party president said that the Modi government’s priority to long-term development policies over “populist” programmes may have caused at times some resentment in a section of society but people will vote for the prime minister’s “strong and stable” leadership in Lok Sabha elections.

He, however, hinted that the government will come out with a bevy of schemes in the run up to the election, saying that the ruling alliance has learnt its lessons from its loss in the recent state elections and that there are many arrows in the quiver of Prime Minister Modi.

The BJP lost power to Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in December.

“Some months are still left for the polls. The government will shoot one arrow after another. What will also weigh the most on people’s mind is who will be the opposition’s choice as prime minister. Whether the next government will be stable or temporary. People will prefer a strong, stable government to a weak, unstable government, leading to Modi’s victory,” he told agencies in an interview.

He also sounded upbeat about the political fallout of the constitutional amendment to give 10 per cent reservation in education and jobs for the general category poor.

“Let me tell you. This 10 per cent quota will lead to a rise of 10 per cent in our vote share,” the Dalit leader, who has long been a strong votary for quota for the general category poor, said.

In Bihar, parties like Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal will find it difficult to open their account after opposing the bill, he said, adding that the NDA will repeat its 2014 feat of winning more than 70 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2014, the NDA won 336 of the total 543 seats in Lok Sabha, with the BJP bagging a majority on its own by emerging victorious in 282 seats. Paswan’s party won six seats.

Asked about the likely voting trend among Dalits, who are a crucial vote bank in almost all states, as many Dalit groups have often attacked the Modi government over a host of issues, Paswan said the prime minister is seen by them as someone who has worked for them and that it will help the ruling alliance.

Paswan, however, lamented that had the NDA run a campaign among Dalits and tribals after the government passed a bill last year to nullify a Supreme Court order that had allegedly weakened a law on atrocities against these communities, then it would have drawn political mileage.

Statement by BJP leaders, including then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, to placate caste groups protesting against the Union government’s decision meant that the Dalits backing it did not hit the road in the support of the exercise, he said.

“What is however clear is that Dalits now know that Modi is not anti-Dalit as used to be projected. He strengthened the law on atrocities against them and has done so much for highlighting the legacy of Bhim Rao Ambedkar. A majority of them will support him during the polls,” he said.

Besides taking measures for Dalits, the government also granted constitutional status to the Other Backward Classes commission and has now given 10 per cent quota to the general category poor, he said, adding that it has touched all sections of society in its term.

Taking potshots at the opposition, the Bihar leader said it is full of contradictions and many regional parties have not made their stand clear on the prime ministerial candidate from the Congress which, he noted, is the only real national party in the anti-BJP camp.

The RJD is with the Congress is Bihar and is backing in UP the Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance, which has kept the Congress out, he said, highlighting the “conflict and contradiction” among these parties.

With several opposition leaders like BSP’s Mayawati and Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, seen to be nursing prime ministerial ambitions, Paswan said the Congress has a history of “destabilising” governments run by other parties as he referred to short tenures of former prime ministers H D Devegowda, I K Gujral, Chandra Shekhar and V P Singh among others.

“Any government of opposition parties will be weak and temporary,” he said.

Paswan was an ally of the Congress before he joined hands with the BJP in 2014 and has served in a number of governments headed by the Janata Dal, Congress and the BJP since 1989.

The Modi government, he said, has stressed on the long-term development measures by focusing on providing housing, toilet, electricity, bank account and loan facilities to the poor.

The country’s prestige abroad has also gone up by many notches due to the prime minister’s focus on international relations, he said. “This was not the case even during the rule of Nehru (India’s first PM),” he claimed.

Asked about the perception of the government among minorities, especially Muslims, he said stray comments by some BJP leaders at times send “negative message” but added that there should be no doubt that the Modi government has worked for all sections of society.

Paswan also reiterated his stand on the Ram temple issue that the matter should be solved either through a judicial order or agreement among different parties in the dispute.

The LJP president has announced that he will not fight the upcoming Lok Sabha poll, expected to be held in April-May, and is set to be sent to Rajya Sabha by the ruling alliance. His party will contest six of the 40 seats in Bihar.

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