As tensions rise in Jharkhand on the fate of the coalition government of Hemant Soren, amid talk of moving the MLA to another state in an attempt to stop trade, AICC general secretary in charge of Jharkhand Avinash Pandey has the difficult task of unifying the 18 Congressional MLAs within the UPA government. In an interview with The Indian Express, Pandey talks about a “secret letter” written by the European Commission to the governor that “caused panic” and says coalition partners are working on “various cases.”
There is talk that the UPA MLA is being transferred to another state.
Nothing has been finalized yet. We hold meetings to decide how to proceed.
Coalition partners negotiate every day. What is your conversation with Hemant Soren?
The UPA is working together to bring out the facts. We also planned to make a presentation to the governor, but for some reason it was postponed. We spoke with the CM about the various possibilities and what to do in case of a crisis.
Is there growing anxiety in Congress and the ruling alliance?
This is the situation that was created based on the alleged secret letter [the Election Commission writing to the Governor recommending the disqualification of the Chief Minister as MLA over the mining case], but the fact is that there was a complaint and measures will be taken in accordance with the law. Now the EC has sent a letter to the governor in a closed envelope, but he has not said anything for five days. Panic is being created, but we as political parties must be prepared – and we are. Now it is clear that the matter is not cleared up [by the Governor] so that there is bargaining, so that there is confusion in the government, so that the administration becomes demoralized and management stalls. This is a deplorable state.
You took charge at the time your predecessor (RPN Singh) joined the BJP. What work has been done since then to maintain the integrity of your party and coalition?
There used to be certain problems with the separation of powers [between the party and JMM] which were not taken seriously. They have been resolved. As an organizer, I have been tasked with keeping the coalition intact and correcting the shortcomings in the party organization. My intentions are clear and the results are visible.
The Chintan Shivir we held in February was followed by a series of samwad sessions held in five divisions, 25 organizational districts, and 320 neighborhoods across the state to discuss issues of organization and coalition. The three arrested MLAs (in Howrah on 30 July) have done away with their greed. The law in this matter is taking its course, and we recommended their expulsion.
In the past few days, various rumors have been deliberately circulated aimed at weakening the government and the coalition. This is evident from the events of recent days. Even if we have to consult with lawyers, we will not be able to do this until we know the contents of the letter (from the EC to the governor).
How does this uncertainty manifest itself in the party and government?
Uncertainty is created intentionally. Even bureaucrats get frustrated when all these rumors go around that someone is being expelled or suspended from work. So there is a lot of speculation and everyone plays their part. As a cautious ally in the government, we keep a close eye on everything that happens because they defame the government, the leadership and weaken the administration. With all this, unfortunately, the leaders of the state, regardless of which party they are from, forget that the state is reeling from the drought, that the peasants are suffering and that all this will affect the economy of the state. Then there are electrical and law enforcement issues to take care of.
But the government is wrestling with a range of allegations, from a coal mining case that hit the top immediately, to issues raised by schemes such as MGNREGA and PDS.
I agree that they (the government) were not very efficient. There are some things that are missing, but you will find solutions very soon too. I did not interfere in management issues, but as a partner we cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility. The situation has improved, although perhaps not to the extent that people expected from us.