There is no vacancy for the prime minister’s post till 2024: Paswan

Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan

Chandigarh: Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Saturday asserted that there was no vacancy for the prime minister’s post in 2019 and the Opposition should work hard and aim for it in 2024.

The ruling NDA partner Lok Janshakti Party chief Pawan made the assertion and claimed that the achievements of the Narendra Modi government in last four years were more than those of any other regime since Independence.

Paswan also spoke at length on Dalit issues, acknowledging that the government earlier had a problem of perception on the Dalit issue, but the same had been set right.

The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution was addressing a news conference, during which he also described the NDA government as “pro-poor, pro-Dalits and pro-farmers”.

Paswan made the remarks in reply to queries on his experience as the NDA partner and if he would be the part of the BJP-led alliance in the 2019 polls.

“The Modi government has been in power for over four years now and if you count the achievements of this government during this tenure, it has been better than any other government since Independence.

“There is no charge which the prime minister faces, he comes from a humble background. Out of 24 hours, he works for 20 hours… This government brought so many schemes for common man and the poor like Jan Dhan Yojana, insurance cover for common people. Besides, India is emerging as an economic superpower,” he said.

He said the LJP supported the NDA when it had only two other allies – the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena.

“For the last two years, we (LJP) have been saying that in 2019, there is no vacancy, the Congress and the Opposition can work hard, but they should realise there is no vacancy in 2019. They can work hard for 2024 and not 2019,” he said.

Asked if the LJP would be part of the NDA in 2019, Paswan categorically said, “Not being so is unthinkable.”

Referring to the Supreme Court’s March 2018 order which had laid down some safeguards against the misuse of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Paswan said after this verdict some people started a campaign to portray the Modi regime as “anti-Dalit”.

He said the entire country knew that the Supreme Court had diluted the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and that it was not a government decision, but a countrywide protest was started as if the government had done it.

“We filed a review petition in the court. As we felt it may take time, a decision was taken in the Cabinet and a bill (to undo the Supreme Court order) was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday,” he said.

With the Opposition targeting the BJP over dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Paswan said various Dalit organisations would hold rallies across the country from 11-14 August, and thank the prime minister for bringing the bill to undo the apex court verdict on the matter.

The Dalit Sena, affiliated to the LJP, has lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the government’s “historic” decision to bring the bill to undo the apex court order on the law on atrocities against the Dalits.

Paswan said four-five months back he had stated that despite so many works and achievements of the Narendra Modi government, there was “a perception that this regime is anti-Dalit.” And, he had also said he would set this perception right, he added.

Paswan said while speaking in the ongoing session of the Parliament recently that he had pointed out that that the Opposition brought the no-confidence motion against the government, “but not even one from the Opposition, be it the Congress or the Samajwadi Party, uttered a word pertaining to Dalits or the atrocities.”

Asked if the government’s stand would change in case the Supreme Court stands by its verdict in response to the petition for review of the March verdict on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Paswan asserted that “it is the government’s job to make law.”

“Parliament is supreme, the court’s work is to see whether the laws which have been made, are constitutionally right… it is the government’s job to make law,” he said.

Countering arguments that the apex court’s judgment had only laid down some safeguards to prevent the misuse of the SC/ST Act, Paswan said any act can be misused, but the misuse of any law is not a valid ground for repeal of its provisions.

“Did it not happen in dowry cases when entire family often landed behind bars?” he asked.

He said “many Dalits feared lodging an FIR after dilution of the Act.”

“Now, they have said a DSP will probe, but which DSP favours the poor? The result will be that the atrocities will once again rise,” he said referring to the apex court’s 20 March verdict, which stipulated that before registering the FIRs under the SC/ST Act, a DSP-level officer would hold a preliminary inquiry and the prior permission of an SP-rank officer would be needed to arrest the accused.

Asked about Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) protest rally with other Opposition parties at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi over sexual abuse of the girls at Muzaffarpur shelter home, Paswan said taking out protest march was the job of the Opposition and they would do that.

What was important in this case, he said, was to see the intent of the Bihar chief minister, who has described the incident as “shameful” and assured that the culprits would not be spared.

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