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Rediff.com  » News » 'Coalition with RJD is not on the cards right now'

'Coalition with RJD is not on the cards right now'

By Satyavrat Mishra
June 02, 2014 12:04 IST
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There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. It's true that the RJD supported us on the trust vote, but it doesn't mean we needed them, says Bihar new chief minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi.

After the Janata Dal-United's humiliating defeat in the general elections, senior JD-U leader Nitish Kumar resigned as chief minister of Bihar and appointed Jitan Ram Manjhi as his successor. In an interview with Satyavrat Mishra, the newly appointed chief minister talks about his priorities, Kumar's role in the party, and his new-found love for arch-rivals Rashtriya Janata Dal.

You emerged as a surprise candidate to succeed Nitish Kumar. Did you know about this earlier?

No, I did not. I had no ambition to be chief minister. I was surprised just like anybody else, when I was told by Nitishji that I would be the next chief minister. Now that I am in this office, my agenda is to do my job efficiently.

You have got only a year and half of tenure left. In this small window of time, what would be your priorities as chief minister?

First of all, I consider that we have only a year since election campaigning will occupy us for the rest of the tenure. Maintaining law and order would be our top priority. A better law and order situation not only boosts trade and industry but also proves helpful in the implementation of welfare schemes. I have personally ordered senior officials to maintain law and order at all costs and to take strict actions against criminals.

We have been far more fortunate than Nitishji. When he took over the reins of the state in 2005, there was despair everywhere. But due to his constant efforts, today we are among the fastest growing states in the country. He has left behind one of the best road maps in the country for us. All we have to do is to carry forward the previous government's good work.

While the state has grown tremendously in last eight years, I do accept that there are still some dark spots. The government has not been able to reach there. Taking development to these areas would also be a priority for my government.

We would continue to root out middlemen and corruption from the government's development programmes, so that the needy can get maximum benefits. I believe that our government would be able to get to the very last man in the near future. I don't think we need new development schemes. What we need is the proper implementation of existing schemes.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged that your government would be remote-controlled. What do you have to say on this?

This reflects their mean mindset. They are basically Manuwadis. On what basis are they making such allegations? Are we less qualified than them? Have we spent any less time in public office? Are we lesser administrators than them?

I am a six-term legislator. I have served as a minister for a very long time. Nitishji has always considered me a skilled, experienced and a worthy administrator, therefore, he chose me as his successor. At the same time, I would also to clarify that we would be open for suggestions from anybody. Those suggestions would be accepted on the basis of their merit, not on who suggested them.

Those who themselves are being remote controlled from Nagpur are making such allegations. Can they defy Mohan Bhagwat?

So, what role would Nitish Kumar play now?

He would be a philosopher and guide for the government. He has vast experience in governance. His suggestions about the government, party and in our fight against communal forces would be valuable.

Why do you think the JD-U lost in the general elections?

It's not that there has been no development in Bihar. Our work has been exemplary. Our cycle scheme for girl students has been praised world over. Today, seats are reserved for women and backward communities in panchayats and local bodies. Thousands of kilometres of roads have been paved in the last eight years.

However, a strange environment of religious fanaticism was built during the elections by the BJP using money power. We failed to take our message to the people. We would work on strengthening our roots.

We broke off with the BJP last year over the ascent of (Narendra) Modiji. How could such a man be tolerated? It's true that he has won the election and may prove to be a successful prime minister, but he is still a tainted person. His hands are soaked in the blood of Godhra and other riots. There are several allegations against him and people still point fingers at him. We, under the leadership of Nitishji, would continue to spread our message against communalism.

Recently, the RJD supported your government in the state assembly on the trust vote. Does this means that the JD-U is now warming up to its arch-rival?

There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. It's true that they supported us on the trust vote, but it doesn't mean we needed them. We already had the numbers. We never asked for their support, but at the same time could not stop them from supporting us. This does not mean any coalition with them is on the cards right now.

However, at the same time we are ready to join hands with other secular parties to stop the rise of communal forces in the country. It does not mean political alliances or inviting other parties to join the government.

You have said that cabinet expansion would happen very soon. Several MLAs are in line for a ministerial berth. How would you deal with them?

It's natural to have ambition in politics. Every section of society will get proper representation in my cabinet. Everybody in our party understands this. In case there is any confusion, then I will personally try to make them understand. There are no dissident voices in the JD-U right now.

Bihar's growth rate has taken a plunge recently and investors are shying away from the state now. How would you improve the situation?

Law and order, development works and power, play an important role in attracting investment. Our government has taken big steps in both these areas. Since 2005-06, we have managed to keep the state peaceful. We have put more than 80,000 criminals behind bars in our eight years of rule.

I admit that the peaceful situation has been affected in the last couple of months. Criminal incidents do tend to increase during elections, mostly because of political reasons, but I have personally ordered senior officials to maintain law and order at all costs. We are now taking strong action against corrupt officials and economic offenders too.

We are also working very hard for electricity. In 2005-06, Bihar used to get only 500-600 Mw of power and most of the areas were under perpetual darkness. Today, we have a much brighter situation. The state is getting more than 2,400 Mw every day, which ensures 18-22 hours of power supply in most of the urban areas.

We are working to improve the condition further. We want round-the-clock power supply to every corner of the state. For that, we have set a target of doubling our current power supply by the end of next year.

Kumar had launched a special movement for special status to Bihar. How would the new government proceed on this now?

We would continue to demand special status for Bihar. We strongly believe that the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government treated us unfairly on this issue. Look at Telangana and Seemandhra, which were granted this status in just four hours. We continue to ask for it from the newly-elected National Democratic Alliance government.

When Modiji called me to congratulate on becoming the chief minister, I told him that giving Bihar special status would send the right message to the poor and weaker sections. Otherwise, we would continue fighting for this status.

Image: Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.

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