Madhu Koda wants the spotlight away from himself. He begins the interview, given Saturday in West Singhbhum district’s Manoharpur town, by saying with a smile and folded palms, “Better if you meet the Jai Bharat Samanta Party’s candidate and interact with her. She will be here on the 10th.”
Koda is referring to his wife Geeta, 30, also the MLA from his former constituency Jagannathpur and a party he founded to serve them both. After ensuring his wife took over his assembly constituency while he went to Delhi, the outgoing MP of Singhbhum, on bail in all three cases and yet to be convicted, now wants her to take over his current position too, as he tackles investigations by multiple agencies into his financial assets as well as the 2006-08 stint as chief minister.
So, is Koda retiring from politics? “No, no. No question of that. I will remain active and work for the people of the area. I will keep trying to make their lives better,” he says.
He is still his party’s star campaigner and has reached Manoharpur at eight in the morning, walking through the town, asking for votes. He later sits under a canopy outside his party’s office, which is much more elaborate than the adjacent Congress campaign office, interacts with people in the Ho dialect, blesses children and even signs autographs.
However, there is an air of withdrawal about him: a desperation to be away from the public eye. “Yes, there were talks with the Congress to facilitate Geeta’s joining the party. But that did not work out,” he says. Then, after a pause: “Not I. Just Geeta.”
There are rumours that the Congress, which has fielded its own candidate here, will extend tacit support to Geeta — but union minister Jairam Ramesh, who would address a meeting in town later in the day, would reject the notion.
Koda is sure where his loyalties lie: “My thinking is more aligned with the UPA than with the BJP.” When pressed about his thoughts on Narendra Modi, he says, “He thinks his Gujarat model is applicable everywhere. There is a zameen-aasmaan difference between Gujarat and Jharkhand. I have been to Gujarat and have seen the pitiable condition of Adivasis there.”
Koda is 43; no longer the 35-year-old legislator who went on to become the first independent chief minister of the country.
On bail since July last year, he has visibly put on weight. Silver has made an appearance on his mustache; the hairline has receded with his credibility.
However, Koda retains the ability to smile at adversity like he always has, an almost shy smile, even when posed uncomfortable questions with supporters waiting on him.
“The authorities keep pursuing me and the media encourages them. Officials of the Election Commission visited my house earlier this week; the media reported they were from income tax. People allege Madhu Koda gets votes by spending money; the people will give them an answer.”