Other States

We have proved we can lead the State: Hemant Soren

Hemant Soren

Hemant Soren  


We do not consider identity politics as necessary. It is the BJP which gives importance to identity politics

From facing questions on his political experience and acumen last July when he came to head a coalition government for the first time to keeping internal rebellions at bay through his term, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, son of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Shibu Soren, is now presenting the party as a credible alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress to voters in the State during the ongoing Assembly election. He spoke to Anumeha Yadav in Ranchi on a range of issues.

Let us begin with the poster wars and the high-powered election campaign in which the JMM seems to be following a trend set by the BJP. Will it work?

They [the BJP] are projecting [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi; chalo Modi ke saath [Join hands with Modi]. They are trying to confuse people. The BJP leadership in Jharkhand is weak and the party is unable to project clearly a leader. The JMM has a strong leadership and that is what we are projecting. In the past 14 months, we have proved that we are capable of leading the State.

The JMM has historically championed the autonomy of tribal people, waging a struggle against the influence of who it describes as “outsiders” or diku in the State. Is the JMM not intensifying identity politics?

We do not think so, we do not consider identity politics as necessary. Whatever is our local tribal base, that is just there. It is the BJP which gives importance to identity politics, it focusses on caste and religion. For the JMM, Adivasi and Moolvasi (original inhabitants) include tribal people and others. We have not said support Hindus or Muslims; this is not a subject of discussion for us in Jharkhand.

Will the Muslim vote be divided between the Congress and you?

The Congress went into “sleep mode” after the Lok Sabha election. The Muslim vote is based on a consensus vote usually, yes. They will vote tactically so that their votes do not go waste. Since the Congress is not in the field anymore, Muslims voters see there is no point voting for them.


There is a persistent demand among many youth for a “domicile policy” for preference in employment. When the first Chief Minister, Babulal Marandi, proposed such a policy in 2002, it led to riots. What is your position on this?

All States have such a policy giving preference to local people in state employment. But what it should be will be decided based on consensus. Earlier, this remained only in files. I raised this issue in the House. There was a discussion. Our government gave it some structure so others could say what is good, what works and what does not. If we form the government, we will raise this again in the Assembly for further discussion.This demand exists because, historically, tribals

have been exploited. It is a natural that a more powerful animal will eat up the less powerful animal. Tribals are shy, and when other communities migrated here, in some places they exploited them. In a few instances, the tribals reacted as well.

As per Rajan committee's report, Jharkhand is fifth in economic backwardness. Will JMM demand special state status?

We do not think we need it. Jharkhand has huge resources and if we get simply our rights over our resources, that will suffice. The central government owes Jharkhand thousands of crores for leases over coal-bearing land. The other day while campaigning, Union Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said, if BJP forms the government, it will grant royalty to Jharkhand. This is blackmail. The state already gets the royalty. If BJP does not form government, will the state no longer get the royalty? They are misleading people. So far, only Coal India is mining coal here. Now they plan to introduce corporate houses. They will give Rs 20,000 crores, and in exchange take away billions worth of coal. There is no response from UPA or NDA on what they owe the state in exchange for leases over mine areas but though they are fond of coming here and making statements.

The central government is mulling changes to the Land Acquisition Act 2013. What is JMM's policy on this.

The Modi government proposes changes to the Land Acquisition Act because it is doing corporate-focused politics. They are with businessmen 24&7, sitting, eating with them alone. The government gave away Rs 6200 crores loan to Adani sahab. It is not that people are not watching.

In Jharkhand, BJP wants to end the special land tenancy acts, such as the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA) 1908 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act 1855 which protect tribal land ownership. This will be disastrous.

First, they should implement the existing laws properly. If earlier a tribal lived in Hazaribagh district, under CNT Act he had

the right to sell or buy property from other tribals or non tribals within the district boundary after notifying the thana. Now that seven new districts have been carved out of a district like Hazaribagh, with 50 new thana, the jurisdiction is smaller, and tribals are told to not move out of this reduced area. Old rules are misinterpreted to tribals' detriment. Instead of removing the tenancy acts like BJP wants to do, there is a need to ensure tribals' autonomy in what older, larger jurisdiction was.

Has the role of corporates grown among regional parties too in the run-up to the elections, including in JMM?

Hiring a private company for election campaigning is one thing, it is temporary. That is not same as establishing corporate interests here.

There has been a controversy over your awarding river sand mining contracts to private companies from Mumbai.

The rights remain with panchayat. This controversy is created by rival parties. Arjun Munda of BJP had decided on an auction policy.

When my government succeeded his, this policy continued, after all we will not suddenly adopt the Chhattisgarh policy. In Gujarat, government gets Rs 150 crores from river sand auctions, in Bihar this is Rs 500 crores, and in Jharkhand, we awarded contracts for Rs 2 crores. After the critcism of this policy, we gave the rights back to the gram sabha, it will decide.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 1:17:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/we-have-proved-we-can-lead-the-state-hemant-soren/article6676855.ece

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