JMM chief Hemant Soren led a three-party alliance with the Congress and RJD to a spectacular victory over the BJP in the just-concluded assembly polls in the mineral-rich state. On Sunday, Soren, 44, was sworn in as the chief minister of the tribal state. He speaks about the preparations that went into the victory, the challenges ahead and how he intends to go about his business. Excerpts from an interview with Preetha Nair…
How did you manage to lead the alliance to victory despite its complexities?
It’s a fact that we fought against a mighty political force like BJP, which has huge manpower and money power. But one needs to understand that everything cannot be achieved by money and power. That way, we would have never defeated the British. The BJP has taken it too far and people couldn’t take it anymore.
Despite the washout in the last LS polls, you didn’t lose hope…?
We started groundwork for the assembly elections immediately after the LS polls. Though the BJP managed to win, the margins were thin in the tribal belts. We did our homework...I understood the aspiration of the tribals and started working with them. Over the past two years, I have undertaken two yatras to connect with people. Though the government tried to divert attention, we focused mainly on local issues.
CAA is the burning issue now. How will you tackle the issue?
The current situation in the country is grim. I haven’t received any official information on this. I will assess the papers and decide if it’s in the interest of the state or not. People are out in the street protesting against NRC and CAA. Why implement a law we can’t afford?
Your government’s stand on NRC/CAA?
I don’t think NRC is feasible or implementable. The entire country is up in arms against CAA. This is happening while our country is going through an economic crisis. We can’t make people stand in queue again like the way it happened during demonetisation. Many people lost their lives. What’s the need of such acts? Who will take responsibility for the lives lost? Even in these protests, the government is quelling dissent through police force. This is not democracy, it’s something else.
During campaigning, Modi and Shah focused mainly on Ram temple, NRC and CAA…
In state elections, local issues should be given thrust. Ram Mandir and NRC won’t feed poor people. We have to focus on pressing issues such as unemployment, hunger deaths and tribal unrest. NRC and Ram Mandir have nothing to do with real issues.
The PM’s comments on identifying protestors by their clothes has sparked a row. Did it hurt the BJP’s prospects?
BJP leaders talk about Gandhi and Sardar Patel, but they behave like Hitler. Their words and thoughts never match.
Is this verdict against Raghubar Das or the party?
Raghubar Das was only taking orders from the bosses. He had no vision how to run the state and that worked against the party. All their talk about development is farce. It’s only on papers. No central schemes have been effectively implemented in the state.
Are you confident of managing the pressures of a coalition?
My administrative experience as chief minister earlier and an RS member are definitely going to be handy in the new assignment. As alliance partners, Congress and JMM were able to strike a chemistry and move forward after burying some minor hiccups.
Have you reached any consensus on ministerial berths?
Discussions are underway...
The tribal belt has favoured the alliance, which is perceived as a backlash against the BJP government’s amendments to land tenancy laws.
The anger among the tribal community was quite palpable. As promised in the manifesto, we will bring ‘right to land law’ to give land to the landless.
What will be your priorities as CM?
We have to work with a broad vision...We have to take the people along irrespective of religion, class, caste and gender. I will strive hard to fulfill my promises in the manifesto such as raising reservation limits for SC/ST/OBCs, 50 per cent reservation for women in government jobs, up to 70 per cent reservation in jobs for locals and unemployment allowance for youth.
Will you take the AJSU along?
No discussions have been held so far with them. But JVM(P) has extended unconditional support.