'The people of Jharkhand know that Modi is not going to become chief minister, so why should they vote for the BJP?'
In the final election of the year, in Jharkhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party is set to be trounced by the alliance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The Congress pulled off this vistory even as its state party chief Ajoy Kumar resigned from the party in August, months before the state went to the polls.
The Congress then appointed former police officer and ex-Union minister Rameshwar Oraon , below, as its party chief. Oraon successfully sewed up an alliance with Hemant Soren's JMM
"I am doing politics on the ground, I am not flying in the air. I am a native of this place. I am a tribal and I have travelled across the state. And I know the nerves of the people. Therefore, I was sure of our victory," Oraon tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
Who do you credit for the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance's victory in Jharkhand?
People of Jharkhand and our leader Sonia Gandhi. It was her strategy to ally with the others and fight elections in Jharkhand. After that the voters of Jharkhand supported us.
What issues bothered the people in Jharkhand?
Local issues mattered in Jharkhand. People are not getting drinking water, be it in villages or cities.
Roads in the cities may be bearable, but the roads in villages cant even be walked on -- they are in such a bad shape.
Another issue that mattered in Jharkhand was that of electricity. Villages receive only two-three hours of electricity. The situation isn't any better in the cities, wherein people don't get more than 16 hours of electricity. Children cannot study during exams.
The other issues that mattered to voters were: Inflation, farmer suicides and unemployment. Issues which touched people's lives worked against the BJP.
This is the first election result after the Supreme Court's Ram Mandir verdict. Didn't the BJP try to cash in on it?
Nobody bothers about the Ram Mandir in the tribal areas of Jharkhand. Tribals came out in huge numbers against the BJP. In Jharkhand, the Ram Mandir was a non-issue for voters and so was the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Do you feel the BJP made a mistake by not allying with other parties, such as the All Jharkhand Students Union?
It is their mistake, so why should I comment on that? I will not analyse their defeat. It is they who should analyse this fact as they are defeated and the Jharkhand voters have ousted them.
But the BJP claims it is getting more than 33% of the votes on its own?
Counting is still going on. And they are losing by more than 10,000 votes in many seats so that means our alliance partner has bagged a good number of votes. I don't know from where they are claiming they got 33% of the votes in Jharkhand.
What about issues like the Land acquisition Bill, amendments to the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act or for that matter the Chotanagar Tenancy Act? Did these issues contribute to the BJP's loss in the polls?
Yes. These were big issues in the Jharkhand elections. These issues were affecting the lives of the tribals significantly and they were up in arms against these amendments. And the BJP government led by Raghubar Das tried to bring in these Acts (unsuccessfully).
Within six months of Prime Minister Modi's mammoth victory in the general election, it seems the BJP is losing ground as they have lost Maharashtra and now Jharkhand. In Haryana, too, they had to seek help to form a government.
The BJP's downfall has come now. This is just the beginning. They are losing state after state.
When I spoke to you in the morning, you seemed very confident about your victory in Jharkhand.
I am doing politics on the ground, I am not flying in the air. I am a native of this place. I am a tribal and I have travelled across the state. And I know the nerves of the people. Therefore, I was sure of our victory.
But this is not a victory of the Congress alone, the JMM too has won. Don't you think your party is riding piggyback on the JMM's success?
It is the victory of the alliance. The JMM got more seats to contest and therefore they won more seats. We got lesser seats to contest, so we won lesser seats. They contested 43 seats and we contested 31 seats. They contested in tribal areas and we contested in urban areas so we suffered some loss.
Do national issues matter during state elections?
National issues don't matter in state elections. It is only local issues that matter to people in state elections and our campaign was focussed on local issues only.
So what is the message to Congress party workers across India who are taking on the might of the BJP in their respective states?
United we stand and divided we fall.
How did you counter the Modi wave which swept India just six months ago?
PM Modi did not do anything in the last six months. During the 2019 parliamentary elections, the issue was nationalism and people voted for him. The people of Jharkhand know that Modi is not going to become the chief minister of Jharkhand, so why should they vote for the BJP?
Moreover, people have started realising that PM Modi has not brought any improvement in their lives. So when he cannot change the country for the better, how can he change Jharkhand for good? Therefore, people were looking for alternatives.
Jharkhand has come to be known as the lynching capital as many Muslims were lynched here over the beef issue. How did you tackle this issue which was polarising voters?
We did not speak of lynching, but spoke about law and order which was is pitiable under Chief Minister Raghubar Das.
Even if we spoke about lynchings, we spoke in terms of law and order issues. There were other issues too as women's safety which was a big issue as the Raghubar Das government completely failed to provide safety to women during his tenure.