BJP Dislikes Being out of Power, Using Below-the-belt Tactics like Scam Charges: Hemant Soren

Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren is receiving a lot of attention from central investigating agencies these days, with a clutch of scam allegations emerging. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader was in Delhi on Sunday to discuss a possible Rajya Sabha pick from the state with alliance partner Congress’s president Sonia Gandhi, a day after which his party’s Mahua Maji was announced as the candidate. In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18 on Sunday, Soren said there was a conspiracy against his entire family and also compared his situation with that of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan who had to spend time in jail before recently getting a clean chit in a drugs case. Edited excerpts:

You have come to Delhi for the Rajya Sabha discussion. What talks have you had with Sonia Gandhi? You have said that you will make the announcement from Ranchi so will the Rajya Sabha candidate be from the JMM or the alliance?

We have frameworked almost everything. The only formality that is left is the announcement and that will be done from Jharkhand. We have a coalition government and we will name a candidate from the alliance only. And as far as whether the candidate will be from the JMM, Congress, or another party, we will take some time to think about it because it’s a political battlefield and every minute is important. So we won’t be able to name the candidate right away.

During the pandemic, there was an image that was formed of your government that you called the people of Jharkhand back to the state. And now, questions are being raised on your governance model and it is being said that your government is involved in corruption.

The pandemic taught us a lot of things like how the labourers suffer and how we need to support them. Those days were so bad that even to this day, I brought labourers from abroad back to the state. We even have a website to make it clear that we can support anyone from the labour class in any way possible. That is still going on. A week or 10 days ago, we migrated some labourers back from Malaysia. It was a wake-up call that we got for the labour class that we will not stop standing for them. As far as my image is concerned, I don’t think anyone’s words especially, when it comes to accusations from people affiliated with any political party, will affect my image. I am not in the position that I am in because of these people.

Who are these people that you are referring to?

Whether it is the BJP or the people from the opposition or anyone who is trying to malign my image, I am talking about those people. I am not heading the state because of those people. The people of Jharkhand are the reason that I am in this position. And even today, I spend my time and energy on the people of the state.

A Lokpal inquiry is going on, there is a disproportionate assets case going on against your family and a mining lease was bought under your name. These are the things that you are being accused of.

This is what we call ‘below-the-belt’ politics. If I tell you that my state is a tribal state, and with a lot of difficulties, a tribal person of the state is leading the state…And they know the weaknesses that we have. They know that our legal side is weak and our people don’t have much information when it comes to the legal knowledge that we have. We don’t have a lot of procedural sciences.

Are you legally weak because there is some truth to the things that you are being accused of?

As far as the Lokpal inquiry is concerned, that has been filed against my father in Delhi. They are trying to conspire against the entire Soren family. But every shot that they shoot won’t hit the target. Yes, they can wound us but all the things that we are being accused of, there is no truth to them. If I were the CM of the state, would I only scam people for 80 decimal? And in the context of this mining scam, even the retired judges and even the Supreme Court’s retired CJI Khare sahab has given his legal opinion…it is also open for the public to see. We will give you a copy of it. It says that the entire matter is arbitrary. It is basically ‘gundagardi’.

But your close aides are also being named in this mining scam and the buck stops at the CM’s office. And you yourself were a minister of that portfolio.

Ever since I came to power, since day 1, the people around me are being targeted by people from the income tax department, ED, and other agencies.

Why do you think that you’re being framed because that is what you are implying?

That is because our motive is our state. Our state is an Adivasi-majority state and they have been backward and poor for years. Our state should have been at the top because of all the mining resources that we have. The entire country is run because of it. But all that the people of my state get is poverty and they die of starvation. Did you know that during the previous government’s tenure, people were dying of starvation while having a ration cards in their hands? But today, even during the pandemic, nobody died of starvation.

I am going to talk about IAS officer Pooja Singhal who has been arrested. 25 crore rupees were found from her house…

That is incorrect. 25 crore rupees were never found from her house. Whoever says that is wrong. This is a 2008 scam of MGNREGA of four crore rupees. I don’t know whose government it was at that time. But I was not there. I can tell you that it was the opposition parties in power. I don’t know if it was Arjun Munda or Babu Lal. I was not even an MP or MLA at that time. They are trying to enter our state through this scam. And the officer you are talking about, the mining secretary, she is not held in that. She is held in a MGNREGA case, when she was the commissioner. But you can see everywhere, that everybody is saying mining secretary, not former district collector. If you see the headlines in the news and media, it looks like that MGNREGA is just one way, they want to go some other way.

Where do they want to go?

They are trying to make some routes. They have brought a coffin and now they are finding who to put inside.

In the mines allotment case, the Election Commission has asked you to appear before it. You have asked for time till June 14. Your MLA brother Basant Soren is facing charges of violation of section 9 (a) of the Representation of The People Act…

I don’t know how much partnership he has in the mines. All the business mines and the mines that have been allotted were done by the previous government, not ours. In our state till now, no auction has taken place of major and minor minerals. So these scams are of which year? They are trying to dig up like they are taking mosques, temples, and gurdwaras. You are coming and raking up a 14, 15-year-old scam…

So on the 14th, will you go to the Election Commission?

I will definitely go.

You will not seek more time?

See I will sum up the whole conversation…BJP has a problem with being out of power…They are hitting below the belt. I am giving them an offer, I will vacate my seat, make the government.

So you are ready to go to the public to seek a fresh mandate for yourself? You are saying that elections should happen again?

They don’t have the majority. They know that 2024 is going to be tough for them. So they want to insult this government as much as possible. But that will not happen. The opposite will happen. I know what they do. Like yesterday I was watching on TV news about Shah Rukh Khan’s son. As far as I know, there were children of many big businessmen of this country…Where did all of them go? What is the impression about CBI, ED these days? I want things to get clear but they don’t want that.

You are talking to KCR these days. There are efforts being made for the creation of another front. I won’t call it the third front because, in the name of opposition, Congress has really failed to rise as the fulcrum of opposition. What are the talks about? Will we see a front before the crucial presidential elections?

The democratic setup of the country, if you see it today, and the federal structure, which has never been strong…people of this country are kind of worried about it.

But the worry is never visible. BJP is winning election after election.

What are you saying?

Now if you see Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa…what happened at these places?

There will be more elections again.

Gujarat and Himachal polls are coming. That was my last question, I will ask you now only. Do you agree that Congress with whom you are running the government is no more an option as they are not able to hold the opposition together? Now there is TMC, AAP in opposition…

I agree with that. The opposition not being strong has come as a blessing to BJP. They are getting options. Only the public can choose who comes to power.

So you are saying Congress is incompetent?

It’s not like that. The BJP is not in power alone. BJP is also in an alliance.

You are also running a coalition government. That is why we want to know from you whether Congress has the ability or not.

The discussion point that is going on in the country is how can we beat the BJP. Everyone in the political surrounding remains in discussion. You will get to know if there is a conclusion. There is a thing on an individual level, regional parties are strongly competing against the BJP.

The regional parties are doing their job. Let’s talk about Congress…It is the oldest party in the country.

I want to say that anything can happen in politics. There should not be any surprise in any ending.

No, let’s talk about Congress…

There can be a situation when this country will have a prime minister without a party. We have seen that. A single man was made president.

There were accidental prime ministers.

The Prime Minister was also made. It’s the same on both sides. Let there be no situation where people come from different sides and make one person the head.

OK, we understand this. You have a relationship with Congress. Tell us about Congress. What is the biggest problem with Congress?

I can’t speak about the politics of Congress. I am sorry. There should not be any issues as we are running a coalition. In our state, we together fight BJP.

Is Congress weak in Jharkhand also?

You can analyse this. The BJP was the biggest party in the state for years. But today they are the second party. The first party is JMM.

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