In an interview with News18, Soren explains what makes him hopeful of the gathbandhan (alliance) between JMM and the Congress, with parties like the JVM and RJD as junior partners, achieving a clean sweep of the state, and why the recent Supreme Court order on tribal land ownership could become a huge election issue.
Between Narendra Modi and Raghubar Das, who is going to be your primary target in the upcoming polls?
We will fight elections against the entire BJP machinery. (Chief Minister) Raghubar Das is just a photocopy machine of Modi and Shah. Das does what he’s told. We are ready to fight the might of the entire BJP.
Between Congress and JMM, the Lok Sabha will be fought under whose leadership?
We have already made it clear that the Congress will play the role of the elder brother in the Lok Sabha polls. We will play the elder brother in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections.
In recent months, several people died in Jharkhand due to starvation. Why is it happening? Do you consider it to be a recent phenomenon?
The underlying reason for hunger-related deaths was the poor implementation of the Aadhaar scheme. These people mindlessly implemented Aadhaar in ration distribution scheme despite knowing that network coverage in some areas is quite poor.
As a result, the ration that people used to get in a day, takes three days now. The time spent in getting through the intermittent network also deals a huge blow to the poor people standing in queue, who also lose their daily wages for that period, for as many as five days.
If at all this model had to be introduced, strong network penetration should have been ensured first. Because of this faulty implementation of Aadhaar-based ration system not only were food-grains not distributed, action was taken against those sympathetic and concerned officers who distributed rations to the needy bypassing the system.
All this resulted in the poor being denied rations, the system having turned against them.
There have been some reports about junior partners in your gathbandhan, like JVM, being reportedly unhappy over seat allocation. Also, seat-distribution is yet to happen.
In every alliance, there always remain some niggles. We all know that. No major differences exist between alliance partners. As far as seat distribution is concerned, we expect everything to be cleared by March 3-4.
How big of an issue do you think will the recent Supreme Court order on tribal ownership of forest areas be? Will it become an election issue?
Definitely. Jharkhand has most tribal population in the country. Nearly 43% of the state is covered by forest and almost 100% of the tribal population live there.
What happened in Supreme Court will definitely go against the BJP. The government lawyers apparently made no effort to get the court to reconsider their decision.
If because of them so many of tribal people are displaced, quite naturally it will become an election issue. Every tribal and non-tribal person in Jharkhand knows that BJP works for the interests of mining and real estate mafias. So it was in their interests that such an order be passed from the courts. This Supreme Court order will directly affect our character, our culture. We will not allow it to happen.
Just to get this out of the way, you will be the gathbandhan’s CM face in the upcoming assembly polls?
[Laughs] We don’t like to comment on these things, but do I have to spell it out myself?
JMM is seen to be a party that generates greater enthusiasm and support in rural areas than in urban pockets. You’re trying to change that image?
Our party’s face has changed a lot over the past few years. Look at the results of municipal elections for instance. Since we were in government, we tried to change this image and ensured that people in both rural and urban areas felt satisfied with our work.
What are going to be the main issues in the Lok Sabha polls?
Land acquisition, the recent SC order, corruption issues, aggression and violence against farmers, restlessness among youth…all these local issues.
Lastly, is it not too much to expect people to completely change their verdict, from giving 12 Lok Sabha seats to BJP in last polls to, as you claim, reducing it to zero?
We are confident about our own performance. Despite the increase in BJP’s seats, our seat share and vote share both in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls has improved. We are banking on our own strengths.