Justifying the decision to join hands with BJP, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) President Ramvilas Paswan today said secularism and communalism were just "poll ploys".
Claiming that a wave was blowing across the country in favour of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Paswan said, "Secularism aur communalism sirf chunavi hathkanda hain (secularism and communalism are poll ploys)." "More than a decade has passed since the 2002 riots in Gujarat... It's development and not (the riot) which is a subject of debate in the country today," he said.
Paswan senior, flanked by son and LJP parliamentary board chief Chirag and the party's state president and brother Pashupati Paras, was speaking after the induction of former Bihar Congress chief Chaudhary Mehboob Kaisar into his party. Kaisar was nominated as the LJP candidate from Khagaria.
Meanwhile, in an apparent dig at his rivals Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Paswan said that in the wake of the Emergency these leaders, "who are products of the JP movement" used to say that they "will prefer to take poison than go to Congress". "See what the situation is today," he said in reference to recent moves by Yadav and Kumar.
Without naming RJD chief Yadav, who had flayed him for "burning his ideology even before Holi", Paswan asked, "Why did he back out when I asked him to name a Muslim as the chief ministerial candidate in Bihar in 2005?" The LJP chief said that development was the key word today and that was what had led him to side with NDA.
Regardless of the decision to align with BJP, his party "was, is and will remain in future a secular party", he said.
Paswan, whose party got seven seats on which to contest out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar as part of its tie-up with BJP, said that "many more will join NDA before the elections and many others will come after the polls to ensure two-thirds majority for NDA at the Centre". Paswan said that the concept of 'untouchability' was no longer relevant as the parties comprising the Dalit front, of which he is the president, have all joined hands with BJP.
Besides himself, RPI leader Ramdas Athawale and Dalit leader Udit Raj, too, were now with BJP, he said.