As suspense builds up in Jharkhand over the fate of the Hemant Soren-led coalition government, amid talk of MLAs being moved to another state in a bid to check horsetrading, AICC general secretary in charge of Jharkhand Avinash Pandey has the tough task of holding the Congress’s 18 MLAs together as part of the UPA government. In an interview with The Indian Express, Pandey talks about the “secret letter” written by the EC to the Governor that has “created panic”, and says the coalition partners are working on “different eventualities”.
There is talk that the UPA MLAs are being moved to another state.
Nothing has been finalised yet. We are holding meetings to decide our course of action.
The coalition partners have been holding talks everyday. What kind of conversation do you have with Hemant Soren?
The UPA has been working together to bring out the facts. We had also planned to make a representation to the Governor, but it has been postponed for some reason. We have been talking to the CM about different eventualities and what to do in case of a crisis.
Is anxiety building up within the Congress and the ruling alliance?
This is a situation that has been created based on a supposed secret letter [the Election Commission writing to the Governor recommending the disqualification of the Chief Minister as MLA over the mining case], but the fact is that there has been a complaint and action will be taken as per law. Now the EC has sent a letter to the Governor in a closed envelope, but he has not said anything for five days. Panic is being created, but as political parties, we have to be prepared – and we are. Now it is clear that the matter is not being clarified [by the Governor] so that there is horse-trading, so that there is confusion in the government, so that the administration gets demoralised and governance comes to a standstill. It is a sorry state of affairs.
You took charge at a time when your predecessor (RPN Singh) joined the BJP. Since then, what is the work that has gone into keeping your party – and the coalition – intact?
Earlier, there were certain power-sharing issues [between the party and JMM] which were not taken seriously. Those have been resolved. As an organisational person, I have been given the tasks of keeping the coalition intact and fixing shortcomings in the party organisation. My intent is clear and the results are showing.
The Chintan Shivir that we held in February was followed up with a series of samvad sessions held in five divisions, 25 organisation districts, and 320 blocks across the state where issues of the organisation and coalition were discussed. The three MLAs who were arrested (in Howrah on July 30) were done in by their greed. The law is taking its course in that matter, and we have recommended their expulsion.
Over the last few days, various rumours are being intentionally circulated to weaken the government and the coalition. It’s obvious from the events of the last few days. Even if we have to hold consultations with legal experts, we can’t do so till we know what the contents of the letter (from EC to the Governor are).
How is this uncertainty playing out in the party and the government?
The uncertainty is being created – deliberately. Even bureaucrats feel disillusioned when there are all these rumours about someone being expelled or suspended. So there is a lot of speculation and everyone’s playing their part. As a cautious ally in the government, we are keeping a close eye on all that’s happening because they are defaming the government, the leadership and weakening the administration. Amid all this, unfortunately, the leaders of the state, irrespective of the party they are from, forget that the state is reeling under a drought, that farmers are suffering and that all this will affect the economy of the state. Then are problems of electricity and law and order that need to be taken care of.
But the government is battling a string of allegations – from the coal mining case, which has gone straight to the top, to questions being raised over the implementation of schemes such as MGNREGA and PDS.
I agree that they (the government) have not been very efficient. There are certain things that are missing but you will very soon find solutions too. I haven’t involved myself in matters of governance, but as a partner, we cannot shrug off our responsibility. Things have improved, even if maybe not to the extent that people expected of us.