PATNA -- Lalu Prasad Yadav, two-time Bihar chief minister and an actor cast in a lead role in the upcoming assembly elections here, lounged in a plastic chair one evening last week, periodically hugging his knee, at his bungalow on Circular Road in Patna.
Donning a cotton vest and pajamas, with snowy hair cropped around his round face, the 67-year-old politician looked perfectly poised to dish out the pithy one-liners and witticisms he has come to be known for in Parliament and in national politics.
But Yadav, a close aide warned this reporter, was in a foul mood.
The chief of the Rashtriya Janata Dal party had been arrested earlier in the day for leading a state-wide bandh to coax the Modi government into releasing the caste census data--the first caste survey since 1931.
Yadav has accused the Modi government of deliberately suppressing this data because it will trigger demands for increasing reservations.
While Yadav sailed forth in a horse-drawn carriage from his residence on Monday morning, his party workers created a ruckus through the day by burning tires, bullying shopkeepers into closing their stores, and attacking vehicles in different parts of the state. Some of them ripped off Bharatiya Janata Party election campaign posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which are plastered all over Bihar.
Huffpost India spoke to Yadav soon after he had been released on bail. After declaring that he was tired, Yadav proceeded to answer most questions in the same vein--bashing Modi, who, in his first campaign speech last Saturday, relentlessly mocked him and his uncomfortable alliance with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the upcoming state elections.
Kumar came to power in alliance with BJP relentlessly attacking Lalu's "misrule" in Bihar. After Kumar broke the alliance with BJP on the question of Narendra Modi's PM candidature, the erstwhile enemies have joined forces to defeat the BJP at any cost.
In his maiden electoral rally in Bihar, Modi played to hilt recent episodes of the two leaders passing snide remarks at each other. The RJD chief said that he "swallowed poison" and allied with Kumar to defeat the BJP, which he calls "Bharat Jalao Party" (Burn India Party). A few weeks later, the chief minister likened himself to a sandalwood tree that is not affected by the snakes wrapped around it.
"Instead of discussing issues of farmers and employment... they are talking about who is the snake and who drinks the poison... why don't you both sit in a room and figure it out... don't force the public to drink this poison," said Modi, drawing a big laugh from the crowd.
When HuffPost India asked him about these quibbles, Yadav responded that Modi is a "Kala Naag" (Black Cobra) who is "spreading poison through the entire country." "We are warriors who must slay the demon," he said. "The Bharat Jalao Party will have to go back. This is Bihar." "We are warriors who must slay the demon. The Bharat Jalao Party will have to go back. This is Bihar."
Desperation to beat the BJP may have forced Yadav and Kumar together, but observers feel their strained alliance may not survive sustained pummelling by their rivals over the next two or three months. The attacks have been more humiliating for Yadav, who is picked on as the bad brother for ushering in "Jungle Raj" when he was chief minster, while Kumar is the good son, who delivered the state from chaos, crime and poverty.
But it is the RJD chief who still commands the loyalty of the Yadav community, which still largely follows his diktat: "You don't give your daughter or vote outside the community."
Yadav spoke to HuffPost India about his "faith" in Kumar and his "old enmity" with Modi.
How do you explain the contradiction in your alliance with Nitish Kumar who came to power by criticising you?
I'm not going to be swayed by what other people are thinking. Media, sponsored media of BJP and RSS, they are very perturbed and disturbed. So they will say the kind of thing you are saying.
The discussion which the media is having in Delhi is anti-poor, anti-backward and anti-minority. They are the ones going Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi, NaMo NaMO, the son of a tea seller. Did he win by being the son of a tea seller or by the riots in Gujarat. He has communalised society. A person like Narendra Modi has become prime minister of the nation. He has spent so much money on media, he hires everyone, they praise him, then they ask questions like this one. The people of Bihar will kick him out.
But your answer doesn't explain the contradiction in your relationship with Nitish Kumar?
To eliminate RSS and BJP, we forgot everything else. What is so hard to understand about this. It is not always about "me...me." We have to come together to save the nation.
If we leave it to Modi, he will break the nation with communalism. So the need of hour is for all secular democratic parties -- not only Nitish, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Deve Gowda -- to come together. I'm also talking about leaders like Mayawati, Mamta Ji. I will talk to all of them. If we don't come together then he will destroy the nation.
You nominated Nitish Kumar for chief minister. Was that a difficult decision to make?
I support Nitish despite all our differences, our fights and all the things we have said against each other. If you are always suspicious then it's done. It's finished. Difficult mean taking a decision like this and then the public approves it. "I support Nitish despite all our differences, our fights and all the things we have said against each other."
Modi targeted you in his first campaign speech in Bihar. How do you respond to what he said about you dragging the state back to Jungle Raj?
He will target the person who is powerful. What is Narendra Modi compared to me? The way that Krishna decimated Kans, the Yadhuvanshi sena will finish them. Why does he say Jungle Raj? I gave a voice to the poor, the backward, the Dalits. He calls this Jungle Raj? What he did in Gujarat... was that Mangal Raj? Our enmity goes way back, Modi helped Advani climb the Rath Yatra, he is an enemy of backward castes, you think I will just leave him. I won't leave him. "Why does he say Jungle Raj? I gave a voice to the poor, the backward, the Dalits. He calls this Jungle Raj? What he did in Gujarat...was that Mangal Raj?
BJP's strategy is to target the alliance between you and Nitish. Do you feel confident that Nitish Kumar will stick to your partnership?
What is that you are not understanding. I have full faith in Nitish. We will finish the BJP together.
Why is it that you don't have posters together?
It will come later. Right now, the campaign is being done by our separate parties. We don't follow your political strategies, we have to decide our own strategy at the right time. If people want to see our photo together, we will do it, but at the right time. All this -- their photos are separate so it must mean that they are separate--is being spread by the BJP-RSS.
What do you think will be the role of Jitan Ram Manjhi in the elections? He has vowed to help Modi?
He is a very good man. But his stand is never clear -- where he will stay and where he will go. That's all I'm going to say on this.
Since becoming prime minister, Modi has said that religious violence will against minorities will not be tolerated. Why are you accusing him of communalism ?
What are you talking about. There have been so many riots. The poor don't have a grain in their bowl and he is saying do surya namaskar, do yoga. He is communalising society to stay in power and to stay in government.
The Congress has blocked all days of this Monsoon Session, so far, over the Lalit Modi scandal and Vyapam scam. Taxpayers' money is being wasted. Do you agree with the Congress strategy?
What did the BJP do when it was in opposition? The Vyapam is such a massive scam -- should Congress and other parties keep quiet, they want to take land from the farmers and give it to foreigners, do you think we will be quiet about it? What else is the parliament for. They are doing the right thing.