Congress Jharkhand in-charge says that efforts are being made to bring parties against the ‘wrongs’ being done by the BJP, under one umbrella.
NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader, general secretary and Jharkhand in-charge, Avinash Pandey, said that there was no threat to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led coalition government in Jharkhand despite three Congress MLAs being caught with unaccounted cash which led to them being suspended from the party. Pandey spoke to The Sunday Guardian also about the “opposition unity” which saw significant divisions during the recent President and Vice-President polls. Edited excerpts:
Q: What is the present status of Jharkhand as far as political stability is concerned?
A: There is no danger to the coalition government. We have the majority, JMM, Congress and the RJD are working together and running a good government under the leadership of Chief Minister Hemant Soren. The situation you are referring to—of attempts being made to influence MLAs—is something that is being done by the BJP is every state where it is not in power; it happened in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Maharashtra, was attempted in Rajasthan and now is being attempted in Jharkhand. We have already suspended the three party MLAs who were a part of this attempt. The government will complete its tenure.
Q: In the recent President election, there are reports that the majority of the 9-10 MLAs, who cross-voted for the BJP nominee, were from the Congress. How concerned are you about this?
A: It was a very unfortunate incident. However, this situation which was witnessed in other states as well, had more to do with the fact that it became an emotive issue for many leaders as the BJP nominee (President Drapudi Murmu) was a tribal, a woman. MLAs of Jharkhand have more affinity with her as she has been a governor there and she had raised strong objection to the anti-tribal laws that were brought by the BJP government in the past in the state. This had created a lot of goodwill and influence for her.
To term this (cross-voting) as something that MLAs did to express anger with the party will not be correct. I have sought a report from our CLP leader Alamgir Alam, I have received a preliminary report. I am waiting for a report on the matter that I have sought from the Pradesh Congress Committee. Those who have voted against the official stand of the party, appropriate action will be taken against them. It will not be correct to say that all the MLAs who cross-voted are from Congress.
Q: There are reports that a cabinet reshuffle will be done in Ranchi. How are you going to ensure that those MLAs, who are a part of the conspiracy to topple the government, are not included in the cabinet?
A: One should not give too much importance to reshuffle, it is a normal process. There is no certainty on when it will happen. The point that we need to look at is whether there is a need for a reshuffle in the context of the situation in the state. Every party is open to carrying out a reshuffle of its ministers as it depends on the performance of its ministers and MLAs. Performance analysis is going on, many ministers are doing extremely well; they are also performing the task assigned to them, strengthening the party’s organization. There are a number of political reasons, checks and balances, and the situation at that time which decide the composition of the cabinet. As of today, there is no fixed timeline as to when, if, the expansion will happen.
Q: Many of the appointments done in the organization level in the state were done by former state in-charge R.P.N. Singh, who is now a member of the BJP. Ranchi-base leaders believe that Singh, due to his proximity to Congress MLAs and leaders, will play a vital role in destabilizing the government. How would you respond to these concerns?
A: Since I was appointed state in-charge in January, we have been continuously working on the ground as per the decided program. I have been putting special effort to meet every leader personally and speak to them and discuss how to make the party more powerful and helpful for the people of Jharkhand. I have also delegated responsibilities to senior leaders in the state.
It is natural that the party leaders will listen to what the state in-charge will tell them, which at that time was R.P.N. Singh. He too did his job to the best of his ability. I don’t think it is correct to say that he has played a role in the recent incident. All our leaders are mature and have risen to where they are through their efforts and hard work. All of them are working diligently, in case some deserving leader has not been given a responsibility, we will ensure that he gets one soon.
Q: There are reports that senior leaders like Subodh Kant Sahai, Dadai Dubey and Furkan Ansari have been side-lined by the party in the state. What feedback have you received in this matter?
A: I don’t believe that these leaders would say something like this. These leaders are the assets, pillars of our party, our legacy. Rumour is being spread that they are being ignored. All these leaders, and other senior leaders, are completely involved with the party programs. Subodhji has recently got a very major responsibility. It is totally wrong to say that they are not happy.
Q: Moving from Jharkhand to Delhi. You are among the most experienced party functionaries. Keeping that in context, how do you see the whole episode of opposition unity which failed to keep its own house together during the President and Vice President polls?
A: I want to make one thing clear: the fight against the BJP for the different kinds of wrongs that it is doing—constitutional, democratic, legal—is not just about opposition political parties, it is about the citizens of this country, it is the people that are worried.
An effort is being done to bring all the political parties who are against the wrongs being done by the BJP, under one umbrella so that a collective fight can be done against money, muscle power and terror that is being spread by the agencies like ED and CBI.
Opposition unity is an ongoing process that has given good results. I believe that in the near future, the entire opposition that is anti-BJP will come together to fight together. It is not a one-day event, a big positive picture will emerge soon due to a joint effort, and a common minimum programme will take shape.
Q: Do you think the Congress should make way for someone else to take the role of the “big brother” role of the opposition unity? Mamata Banerjee has in the past, too, objected to this. Will Congress make this sacrifice?
A: A wrong perception is being created that Congress has sought to lead or dictate the opposition unity. Congress is a 135-year-old party, it has presence in every part of India; it cannot be ignored by any political entity. In the natural course, the Congress has to lead, but the Congress has never demanded or said that we will only lead. You must have seen how during the Presidential polls, the Congress said whatever the other parties will decide, it will accept. The same happened in the Vice president polls.
Q: Observers, opposition, and media have said that the Congress leaders came out on the street only after its high command was subjected to agency interrogation. Is this observation not correct?
A: This is unfortunate that you are talking just about the ED investigations in this context. If you go back, I myself have come out on the streets to protest on the issue of costly gas cylinders, diesel petrol, inflation, unemployment, land acquisition and similar such issues that affect the life of a common Indian. The Congress has been the only party that has raised its voice against the wrong decisions of the honourable Prime Minister.
I, along with other leaders, as well as other leaders in their respective states, will walk for 75 km to reach out to people of this country and tell them what is happening and what Congress is doing in the coming days. A wrong perception is being created that Congress has just come out on the streets in the ED matter.
It is not about Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, it is also about the independence of the media, about crushing National Herald, a newspaper that played a crucial role in India getting Independence.
Through the National Herald, the entire media is being warned that the present government can do anything it wants. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi are fighting a battle to preserve the democratic structure of this country and the Constitution.