BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad explains to Kunal Majumder why his party withdrew support to the Jharkhand government twice
Why couldn’t the BJP reach an agreement with Shibu Soren in Jharkhand?
The Jharkhand situation is well known. The last election threw a completely fractured verdict. Shibu Soren himself came to us. He knew we had the numbers along with Sudesh Mahato, and said that he wanted to be part of the NDA. Now he comes and votes against the cut motion the NDA moved in the Lok Sabha. Rightfully, we took offence and withdrew our support to his state government. That’s when he apologised for it, saying, ‘Please, humko maaf kar dijiye (please forgive me)’, and agreed that Jharkhand should have a BJP government. He said he wants to be a part of NDA, so that the Congress doesn’t return to power.
But given Soren’s past record, how could the BJP ever trust him?
The son [Hemant Soren] and the father wrote to us. We insisted on having the assurance of all their MLAs, which happened as well. Once again Shibu Soren went back on his promise. He refused to resign even though his six-month grace period [to get elected as an MLA] was ending on May 30. Then he suggested chief ministership on rotation. For the sake of stability we even agreed on that. Continuing on his flip-flop, he then went back on that as well. I mean, in politics there should be some degree of commitment. For the sake of the people of Jharkhand we agreed to try our best, despite this man being completely undependable. We were very clear that we wanted to give a stable government. Now he is asking the Congress to give him a ministry. Maybe some secret talks were going on with them. At least our reason for the latest withdrawal of support is very clear. In spite of doubts about him in our party, we wanted to give him a chance because he had apologised in public.
Wasn’t there a better way of handling the matter?
We handled it in the best possible manner, by going the extra mile to accommodate him. It appears there is a wide disconnect within the family itself. The father and the son don’t agree with each other on a lot of issues.
The JMM has been exposed. We urge the people of Jharkhand to give the BJP a clear mandate
But it looks as if the BJP is desperate to come to power?
Your accusation is completely misplaced. The day he voted against the cut motion, we said we would withdraw support. Later they requested us, issued apologies, saying: ‘Please please, choose the chief minister yourself’. We didn’t believe the father-and-son then, so we called all of them (MLAs) to show support, which they did. We were not desperate. At least, we can face the people of Jharkhand and tell them that we tried our best. Things went wrong because of other factors. It is time for the people of Jharkhand to give a stable majority to the BJP.
Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi calls the whole episode a theatre of the absurd.
Murli Manohar Joshi is a senior leader. I don’t wish to comment on his statement. but certainly, the way the JMM leadership has handled itself, they have proven one and all that they are utterly untrustworthy.
What’s next for BJP in Jharkhand?
One must remember that the BJP has been present in Jharkhand from the days of the Jan Sangh, when it was part of bihar. Even now we have the highest number of seats. We will increase our cadre. It is time for the people to give a credible majority to the bJP so that we can perform.