In contrast to his flamboyant predecessor Laloo Yadav, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has carved an image of being focused on governance. Walking out of his Patna secretariat office after a series of meetings late on Tuesday night, Kumar spoke to Prashant Jha about the Maoists, Madhes and monsoon.
Nepali Times: Are you worried about the Maoist win in Nepal?
Nitish Kumar: Why should I be worried? We welcome the election results and look forward to working with the new government. The Maoists have come the democratic way and are a legitimate party. Their links with Naxals have never been proven. It is mere speculation and we have no reason to believe they will support such activities on our side. This is the verdict of the people and we honour it.
Madhesi leaders met you recently to ask for support for their struggle. What do you think about the Madhes issue?
They did come and speak to me and I listened to their views. But this is a problem that has to be solved within Nepal. There is a constituent assembly now. Madhesis have representation within the house. They, like others in Nepal, have legitimate demands which can be addressed in the new framework. This is not a mandate for one-party rule anyway. From what I understand, the message from the people of Nepal is that all their political leaders should work together. Everyone, including the Madhesis, must be taken together in this process.
Tarai armed militants are reported to be based in Bihar.
Well people of the Tarai come and go. This is an open border. We share a roti-beti relationship. Our lives are intertwined and our problems are the same. We have always been ready to help Nepal and during elections, we tightened up our security to ensure things remained calm.
What are the key areas in which you would like to co-operate with the new government in Nepal?
Water management is of course a priority. Can you imagine what a relief it would be for us in Bihar if the annual floods do not devastate lives? So much of my work goes to waste every monsoon. The roads get destroyed, we have to spend at least Rs 3,000 crore in relief and rehabilitation. This will help Nepal also, by stopping floods in your Tarai and enabling the development of hydropower. What we have signed are a few run-of-the-river projects. The next step must be to build high dams.