Babulal Marandi, former chief minister of Jharkhand and leader of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), tells Gyan Varma that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should be praised for withdrawing support to the UPA
The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) has withdrawn its support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. What were the issues that influenced its decision?
The issue is very clear. When we supported the Manmohan Singh government in 2009, we had hoped that it would work for the people. But in the last three years, we have come to know about the government’s involvement in scams one after the other — from the Commonwealth Games to the 2G spectrum allocation and coal block allocation. The prices of petrol and diesel have also increased, adding to the woes of the people. Besides, the government has now allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, which I think amounts to cheating the people. We believe that the Congress party didn’t get the majority to do whatever it feels like. We want to stay away from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
You have said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s move to pull out of the government was correct. Was your decision inspired by her?
Banerjee took the right stand at the right time. We saw that all political parties, including the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), were opposing the decisions of the government. But none of these parties had the guts to withdraw their support. In such a situation, since Banerjee dared to withdraw the Trinamool Congress’ support, we should praise her.
Your party has only two Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha. Why do you think the withdrawal would have an impact on the UPA government when the latter enjoys the support of the BSP and the SP?
I have never said the government would collapse if we withdraw our support. We know we have just two MPs and we cannot bring it down. If the UPA government continues to take decisions with which we don’t agree, we cannot be a part of the alliance. If we stay with the government, it would mean we support the UPA for personal gains. We do politics for the people, so we have just stood by our principles and maintained our stand. The government was not formed because of our support and it would not fall because of us.
We ought to maintain our principles in politics, if we want people to trust us. As of now, people are questioning the credibility of politicians.
You have alleged that there is no difference between the Congress-led Central government and the BJP-ruled government in Jharkhand. What are the similarities or differences between the two?
There is no difference between the Congress and the BJP. As people have seen scams and corrupt practices being unearthed in the case of the Congress-led Central government, they are seeing similar ones in Jharkhand. Although the BJP claims it has protested against those scams, the truth is that if the Comptroller and Auditor General had not revealed these in coal block or 2G spectrum allocation, the BJP would not have been able to establish anything as the main Opposition party.
The BJP has never played the role of the principal Opposition party. Today the party is talking about corruption and raising similar issues because it is under pressure, since anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ramdev have come out against corruption. The BJP feels if it doesn’t take up these issues, it would lose an opportunity to talk about corruption. The BJP talks of auctioning in 2G spectrum and coal block allocation, but in Jharkhand, where BJP is in power, Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda had given a contract to a private company to build a 113-km road worth Rs 3,765 crore without a tender process. Why is the government not conducting competitive bidding? It is going to be the most expensive road in India.
Coal blocks were allocated even when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power. But the number of allocation was less because of a low demand for coal. If there was demand then, the BJP would have given away the same number of coal blocks. Both parties are interested in forming the government in Jharkhand. In 2006, the Congress party had made an independent candidate Madhu Koda the state chief minister because he gave iron ore mines to private companies on lease.
Now, even the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate are investigating the case. We have written letters to the prime minister and asked him to cancel such allotments, but neither the Congress nor the BJP has raised the issue in the state. Shibu Soren is running the government with the BJP in Jharkhand, but supports the UPA government at the Centre. So, what is the difference between these two parties?
The JVM(P) has decided to contest all seats in the Lok Sabha elections against the BJP and the Congress. Do you think there is a possibility of a Third Front at the Centre? Is this decision in view of the possible alliance in the Third Front?
We will try that after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, if the government at the Centre is not formed by the BJP or the Congress. We are in favour of a Third Front government in Delhi. Both the Congress and the BJP are equally responsible for the state of affairs in the country and there are many states in India where regional parties are running the government successfully. So, if a Third Front is formed, we will definitely support it.
It is alleged that Munda had favoured the Abhijeet group in the coal block allocation scam. How do you view these allegations, since you have been the chief minister of the state earlier?
Munda is completely involved in the deal. He didn’t only favour the company during the coal block allocation, but also to get 300 acres of land to set up a factory. I think around 150 acres was captured by the company through wrong means. The land was for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, but it was given to the company. We had raised the issue in the legislative assembly, but instead of getting the land vacated, the Jharkhand government took a Cabinet decision and transferred 44 acres of land to the company in June last year.
Since some of the UPA allies are withdrawing their support, will the Union government complete its full term? What do you expect in the upcoming winter session of Parliament?
The problems that the Union government is facing are self-created. It would have to answer some tough questions in Parliament during the winter session. First, the government had said it would talk to state governments and political parties to build a consensus on the FDI issue, but it went ahead and implemented the decision. So, the government would have to explain its hasty decision. The government would have major problems dealing with the Opposition parties in Parliament this time around. I can’t predict whether this government would complete its full term or not.