Over the past week, suspense has prevailed in Jharkhand over whether Chief Minister Hemant Soren will continue as MLA. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has asserted that the CM’s disqualification will not affect the government as the coalition enjoys an absolute majority in the 81-member House.
In an interview with The Indian Express, state Cabinet Minister Mithilesh Thakur, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha general secretary considered to be close to Soren, talks about the current political situation in the state, alleged attempts to poach MLAs, and what the ruling coalition will do if Soren is disqualified.
There have been a lot of rumours about the ruling alliance and the insecurity within. MLAs, especially all Congress ministers, were taken to Khunti and Chhattisgarh. Does this reflect a lack of trust between the JMM and the Congress?
The ‘Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance)’ and trust, both are intact. We are in panic mode as the opposition BJP uses all types of gambits to break away and buy the MLAs and get their support. However, we are ready for any kind of test. The way democracy is being insulted by the BJP and the way the public’s will is being trampled upon, it is natural that we keep positions safe. On the day of the Khunti trip, we received inputs about attempts being made to poach our MLAs and that is why we played it safe.
The political turmoil started with Hemant Soren owning a mining lease and the Opposition making this fact public. Do you think the CM made a mistake?
Any human being can make a mistake but that mistake has been corrected. There has been no monetary benefit from it. This is not illegal.
Recently, the Cabinet approved chartered planes for travel related to government work and then there is the Chattisgarh resort stay. What is the impact on the state’s finances and where is the money coming from?
Jharkhand was formed 22 years ago and yet today it does not have its own helicopters or aircraft despite being a mineral-rich state, which is ironic. This is a start and very soon the state will have its own. As far as the resort stay is concerned, the MLAs have said they are spending their own money. We are ready for any kind of appropriate authority to investigate the expenditures.
What will the coalition do in the event of the CM’s disqualification? If there is debarment, who will step in as CM?
We are prepared for any kind of eventuality. In a democracy, a show of numbers and strength is important. We have the support of more than 50 MLAs. All legal advisories that the state received — from various sources such as political analysts and legal luminaries — said that Hemant Soren wouldn’t be disqualified. But whatever the result, our government won’t be affected and we will run the government till 2024 with full strength. If the situation of debarment comes, we will try to get relief in six hours because it will not stand up in High Court or the apex court.
There are rumours that Kalpana Soren or Shibu Soren will be an alternative if the situation goes out of hand.
There is no such talk as of now. The order or direction (of the governor or the Election Commission of India) won’t be beyond the law because there are upholders of the law at the top. So, whatever the decision, there won’t be any problem for the government.
Unlike other states where ‘Operation Lotus’ has been successful, Jharkhand is resisting any alleged poaching bid. What is the CM thinking?
Had our CM Hemant Soren been in a defensive mode, then the Opposition’s gambit would have been brought to conclusion. The CM has aggressively tackled all situations. The first thing is confidence, which the CM exudes, and the second thing is that there has been no wrongdoing on his part. For the CM, it has never been about the power or the chair, it has always been about the welfare and rights of people.
There have been certain issues with the image of the government and the BJP seems to have been capitalising on it. Do you think this is the Opposition’s plan, to keep you on edge all the time?
This has always been the ploy of the BJP — creating chaos, confusion and instability, discrediting rivals, and finally taking over. But even in the worst of circumstances, our government has returned to governance and we have returned with full force. We have delivered universal pensions, among other things.
A girl in Dumka in was set ablaze by an accused from a particular community. She died after four days of treatment in RIMS. The government had airlifted an acid attack victim to Delhi for treatment. Do you think the government, or the Opposition, should have done better with the Dumka girl?
This depends on the medical board’s decision and we gave Rs 1 lakh to the Dumka victim’s family. Also, burn injuries are such that one does not get to know the internal damages to the organs and treatment was ongoing at RIMS; the doctors tried their best.