What are the issues that you are focussing on this time?
Since these are Lok Sabha elections, the issues are those of central policies. The problems concerning the state also have to do with Central government. Since, it is the BJP government at the Centre, so it the question of what they have done in these five years.
Ever since Narendra Modi has formed the government, they have weakened all institutions which are supposed to function independently. He was supposed to have strengthened them but Modiji has only weakened them. It has happened with the CBI, CVC, ED, RBI and even the Election Commission. They have not even left the judiciary alone; they are attempting to intimidate that too.
They have not left alone even the fourth pillar of democracy– the press. This government seems to believe that no one can write against them, question them, criticise them. If any media house writes against the Modi government, CBI and IT raids are immediately conducted. It has become normal for Modi to ask for the removal of journalists who don’t write in his favour.
The Modi government is responsible for fanning communal tensions in the country. People have lived with each other for hundreds of years and this government is the reason why there is so much hatred out in the open. The maximum number of riots and lynching incidents have occurred under this BJP government. In Jharkhand, such incidents hardly ever happened. Now,there have been at least 17 such instances.
This government has constantly attacked minorities. The most affected are the Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians. This is an extremely important issue this election. If the country has to progress, there must be harmony amongst the citizens. The five years of Modi rule have ensured that there is no more amity. What we all should remember is that Modi has not done anything that he said he would. He has done everything that he shouldn’t have.
You talked about mob lynching. What is the lasting damage of such politics?
Ever since the BJP government has come in the state and at the Centre, there is no community that has been left in peace, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Hindus. People live in fear of them. Whether they are attacks in the name of cows or religion, no one has peace. Even on festival days, people are afraid if they will be attacked. Common people are remaining silent and are extremely frustrated with this government.
What are the issues pertaining to the state?
There are several issues of land acquisition in the state, but these will come into focus especially when the state goes to polls later this year. They attempted to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santal Pargana Act; we will raise those issues. They are attempting to undermine the control of tribals on their land. But, we are not raising many of these issues now, because these are all related to the state and when the elections will happen in November, we will bring them back.
Modi has been consistently speaking of the Pulwama attack and Balakot strikes to whip up a skewed version of nationalism. Do you think that will have any effect in Jharkhand?
That will not work in Jharkhand. He thinks he can fool people by mentioning these strikes but the people of the country have understood him. What nationalism is he talking about? He has shamed the country. He is not only responsible for the killing of our soldiers and now even international press has ridiculed the country. This is the first time we have been laughed at. He is making a big deal about Balakot air strike. Earlier too such strikes have happened; it’s not a new phenomenon. But, the way you have advertised it, even Pakistan is laughing at us. This is first time, those who have attacked are rejoicing. Our Army has always been firm against Pakistan, but the way Modi has misused the Army, it has made India a laughing stock in front of other countries. He has demoralised the Army.
Nationalism doesn’t come through speeches. You are screaming ‘Bharat Mata ki Jay’, but the country will feel victorious only when there is food in the mouths of every hungry person, when everyone has access to good education, has basic amenities of life, has a house to live in and gets good healthcare. Nationalism is about helping everyone live a life of basic dignity. In Jharkhand, more than 50 per cent people do not even get two square meals a day. Is this the nationalism he talks about?
What is the state of our health facilities? Who has access to them? We still rank low on the poverty index. Modi can keep screaming about nationalism but the world will not be ready to accept that we are a strong nation. We will be considered a strong nation when all of these issues are addressed.
The Modi government has been in power for five years. How have they fared?
Where will I begin? Every issue is related to each other. I think this government has done nothing to ensure every child in this country gets free education. What has Modi done for healthcare? Every Indian needs to have access to free healthcare. If these two are implemented properly, many things will start to fall into place.
If farmers are in debt, it is not because of poor harvest. It is because they borrow money to ensure that they send their children to good schools, they take loans to afford good healthcare. A farmer’s son cannot study in an IIM; it is almost impossible to afford the fees of ₹15 lakh.
Make education free and give access to good healthcare. If these are taken care of, then all of the farmers’ produce can be first used to feed the family and then sold to feed others.
But this government has worsened the situation. They have reduced the budgetary allocation for both education and health.
Several of your MLAs had switched to BJP in 2014 soon after the formation of the Raghubar Das government here. Will that have a bearing on this election?
Of course, people remember it. BJP will pay for it this election. BJP earlier used to claim that they were against corruption, but now it has been clear they also practice it. People were fed up of it. The Parliament had cleared the anti-defection law. Ever since the BJP has been in power, the tenth schedule has lost its meaning. They do whatever suits them.
You lost the last two elections. What are your chances this time?
The situation has changed. Everything on the ground has changed. Change is inevitable. And just like that, this time too things will change.
What is the threat RSS poses to the nation?
RSS is only capable of violence and terror. Mob lynching is a form of terror attack. All their leaders are threatening dire consequences if they are not voted back to power. They can function only by terrorising people. People have understood them for what they are.