Jharkhand is emerging as one of the test cases for the anti-BJP Mahagathbandhan, with the Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Rashtriya Janata Dal and Left parties engaged in negotiations for an alliance in the state.
Former Jharkhand chief minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren was in Delhi on Saturday, 16 March, to meet Congress President Rahul Gandhi to discuss the seat-sharing between the parties.
Speaking to The Quint, Soren said, “We are confident of forming a strong alliance of all non-BJP parties in Jharkhand. This will be the strongest, most united Opposition alliance in the country”.
The former Jharkhand chief minister said that the Pulwama attacks and Balakot air strikes will not help the BJP in the elections.
“The armed forces are there to defend the country. They did what they had to do. We are fully with them. But the BJP can’t politicise this and expect to gain,” he said.
He further accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “playing politics over the dead bodies of soldiers.”
You can’t win votes by playing politics on dead bodies.Hemant Soren
According to him, the BJP is trying to gain political mileage out of the Balakot air strikes only to hide its “failures” on other fronts.
“There’s widespread unemployment. Farmers are in distress. People are dying of hunger. The BJP is only trying to divert attention from these issues of public concern,” he said, further adding, “don’t forget, most jawans are also kisaan,” he said.
‘Political Will Needed to Prevent Lynchings’
The Quint asked Soren about the incidents of Muslims being lynched in the state and how he plans to prevent it if he comes to power.
"These incidents are the result of the venom that has been spread by people in power. If we have the political will, such incidents will never take place. There were no lynchings in our rule. If we come to power, we will ensure that the police does its job and that such incidents don’t take place,” he told The Quint.
Support for Congress’ PM Candidate
On being asked if there is a conflict in the Opposition alliance on its prime ministerial candidate, Soren said that the JMM will go with whatever the Congress decides. However, he hinted that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s entry into politics has added a new dimension to the debate.
“Rahul Gandhi is there, now Priyanka Gandhi as well. Let Congress decide who its leader is, we will abide by it,” he said.Hemant Soren
However, he stressed that the question of a PM candidate was secondary and that the priority is to defeat the BJP.
The Alliance Question
The JMM leader said that the alliance in Jharkhand will be announced soon. As of now, the seat-sharing arrangement is being finalised. The announcement will be made by all the constituents in Ranchi.
Sources in the Congress’ Jharkhand unit said there is agreement on almost all the seats. There’s still some disagreement regarding the seats being demanded by the Left as well as the Godda seat that is being sought by both the Congress and the JVM(P).
Soren, however, is confident that these differences will be overcome soon and that the alliance will be formalised.
He also disclosed that the JMM could go for an alliance with the Congress in Odisha as well. The party is hoping to contest one Lok Sabha and 5-6 Assembly seats in the state where Assembly polls will be held along with the Lok Sabha elections.
Soren said that the differences between the JMM and the Congress that came up during the recent by-election to the Kolebira Assembly constituency, will not be repeated in the Lok Sabha elections.
“We had approached the Congress to support the Jharkhand Party candidate, but they had a different view. This was a specific election. The Lok Sabha polls will be different,” he told The Quint.
Adivasis vs BJP
The former Jharkhand chief minister said that Adivasis in particular are angry with the BJP government at the Centre as well as the state.
“The Raghubar Das-led Jharkhand government’s policies reflect a clear hostility towards Adivasis. Adivasis are being denied jobs. Their land is being given away to companies,” he told The Quint.
According to him, land is the biggest concern for tribals and that the JMM’s main mission is to secure “Moolnivasi (original inhabitants) people’s rights over Jal, Jangal, Zameen (Water, Forest and Land).”
Land is the biggest issue in Jharkhand – whether it be regarding the CNT Act of the dilution of the Forest Rights Act. There is widespread anger among Adivasis on these issues.Hemant Soren
He alleged that the bias against Adivasis extends from the top level of the Jharkhand government to the local level.
“The administration is not sensitive to the demands of Adivasis, at every level. When Adivasis apply for jobs at the local level, the administration fills the positions by recruiting outsiders,” he said.