Champai Soren says popular sentiment is in favour of INDIA bloc

BJP does not have any concrete issue to talk about: Jharkhand CM

56-Champai-Soren Champai Soren | Sanjay Ahlawat

Interview/ Champai Soren, chief minister, Jharkhand

A member of the old guard in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Chief Minister Champai Soren has the difficult task of guiding the party and the coalition government in the state amid challenging circumstances. The JMM veteran does not mince words as he takes on the BJP in an election season that assumes added significance for the party in view of former chief minister Hemant Soren’s arrest and the aggressive moves by the saffron party. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK at his home office in Ranchi, Soren insists the INDIA bloc will reverse the trend of the BJP doing well in Lok Sabha polls in the state. He says the people have realised that everything Prime Minister Narendra Modi said was mere jumla (false promises). Excerpts:

Q/ What makes you confident about the INDIA bloc doing well in Jharkhand?

A/ If you look at the political atmosphere, it is clear that the popular sentiment is in favour of the INDIA bloc because the BJP does not have any concrete issue to talk about. The INDIA bloc, on the other hand, focuses on issues such as price rise, which has reached extreme levels, and unemployment which is beyond intolerable.

Q/ In 2019, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won 12 of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.

A/ The MPs belonging to the NDA have no vision for the state. They are asking for vote in the name of only one person. Don’t the MPs have any responsibility towards their constituencies? And the person whose name they are invoking has been making false promises and declarations since 2014. Ache Din (good days) did not arrive, no family got Rs 15 lakh, two crore jobs were not provided. All that he said proved to be just jumla.

Q/ Prime Minister Modi is the BJP’s mascot in these elections, too.

A/ The people have understood, looking at his performance during the last ten years, that he is neither good for the state nor good for the country. Hence the people are reposing their faith in the INDIA bloc.

Q/ You talked about the MPs belonging to the NDA neglecting the issues of the people of the state.

A/ The villages that they adopted have seen no development. Not a single brick has been laid in those villages. What have they given to the state in the last ten years?

Q/ What are the issues specific to Jharkhand that will be important in these elections?

A/ A very important issue of the tribal population is the Sarna religious code. We passed a resolution in favour of a separate Sarna code, but it was stalled in the Raj Bhavan. Another issue is about giving 27 per cent reservation to OBCs. There is a demand for a domicile policy based on the Khatian of 1932 (land settlement based domicile policy) for the original inhabitants, the adivasis, in the state.

Q/ How is the arrest of Hemant Soren impacting the elections?

A/ He was an adivasi chief minister. He focused his efforts on schemes to provide roti, kapda and makaan (food, clothing and home) to the adivasi population. He was a chief minister who actually worked for the people. The Central agencies arrested him for alleged corruption in a land deal. But the land was not in his name. The adivasis are extremely angry over the manner in which he was arrested.

Q/ Hemant Soren’s wife, Kalpana, has stepped in for him.

A/ A byelection is taking place in Gandey, and our party has decided that Kalpana would contest from there. And the party is committed to ensuring that she wins.

Q/ Kalpana is connecting well with the people, especially women.

A/ We have an organisation, and we have our government which is working for the people. And when we are working so hard, our victory is assured.

Q/ Has the party thought of a bigger role for Kalpana?

A/ It is up to the party [to decide]. We have a coalition government. It is not proper to say anything in this regard at this juncture.

Q/ There is a divide in the Soren family. Shibu Soren’s daughter-in-law Sita joined the BJP.

A/ If one or two people leave, it does not have an impact on the party. The party does not get weakened.

Q/ In some seats, JMM rebels are contesting as independents.

A/ During elections, it is not unusual for people to move from one party to another. The organisation is important, not any individual.

Q/ Assembly elections are due in a few months. How challenging is it to keep the party together?

A/ Since the time the coalition government was formed under the leadership of Hemant babu, the opposition has been making efforts to break the party and destabilise the government, but it failed to do so. Ultimately, after the government completed four years, they got Hemant babu arrested in a false case. But our coalition government stands strong.

Q/ What is going to be your roadmap ahead of the state polls?

A/ I will continue to play the same role. The party decides who will get what role. And we will continue the schemes that we have started for the people of Jharkhand.