Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi does not waste time on idle talk. A man of action, he believes, the alliance has marked a political turnaround in Bihar, which will see the state grow. Manjhi, who leaves for Saudi Arabia to seek investments in October, also talked of 'effective measures' to deal with law and order 'soon' and explains what his predecessor, Nitish Kumar, means to him in this freewheeling interview with Anil Kumar Ojha.
HT: What is your take on the by poll results? Are you satisfied?
CM: We have enough reasons to be satisfied. We have won with 60% of ten seats in our kitty. The alliance can afford to cheer over the results. Although we had expected all ten, six seats is an encouraging performance and marks a turnaround in people's assessment after the Lok Sabha elections. The Modi wave is gone. The BJP could not retain its own seats. The results underline, not slogans, but only work matters.
HT: What worked for you: The decision to get into and alliance with RJD and Congress, or are there other factors as well?
CM: The combination of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad is a potent one. They who take them on are putting themselves in self destruct mode, since they together represent the mainstream of Bihar's disadvantaged and aspirational people. The Congress expands the profile to take the alliance into an over arching one, one, that in unbeatable. Their combined efforts brought the BJP to its senses. Look, what has been achieved is that the scattering of anti-BJP votes has been stopped and arrested. These are the votes, which are philosophically together, though they may have been divided into party jackets at Lok Sabha time. Together, can there be an opponent? The same alliance had 46% of votes in LS against BJP's 33% and yet lost. Together, what they mean is now clear. The results are before you. It can only get stronger.
HT: Will the honeymoon with the RJD and the Congress continue into 2015 elections?
CM: Yes, is there any doubt after what we have seen? We will be together in the next government. The leadership concerns, that others raise to put us down, do not exist. It will be smoother than imagined. Yet, we will not announce our leader before the elections. The leader, will be chosen with all alliance partners participating. That is the democratic way, the proper way.
HT: How do you see the BJP tally in the by polls?
CM: The BJP and its allies pumped huge funds and adopted all kinds of propaganda to blow us off track. Besides huge funds on campaign trails and advertisements, they used choppers and star campaigners. That did not help them. The prime minister chose to address a rally close to Bihar as a strategic distraction to voters. That also failed to take away from the alliance might. In total contrast, we could neither spend, nor wanted to. Our leaders stood rooted to the ground, meeting people, travelling by road. That helped.
HT: There has been news in certain sections of the media about your distancing from former chief minister Nitish Kumar? Would you like to comment?
CM: (Laughs but soon turns serious with a little unhappiness over his face}: It is the creation of you people. What appears in the media is nothing but gossip. Where is the issue of distance between us. Nitish Kumar is a great personality and the politicians cutting across party lines can learn from him. He has set an example by quitting the much coveted chair, taking responsibility for the LS poll debacle. He made a Mahadalit the chief minister of Bihar. I am senior to him in politics but he is the more seasoned His thoughts are more intellectual than any other politicians, including myself. He is a statesman with foresight-the heart and soul of the party.
HT: Your government harps on development and investment. What is the status of investment in Bihar?
CM: Our party's main motto is development and flow of money from other sources. We have done a good job in the recent past and we expect investment upto Rs. one lakh crore in the near future. Some Arabian countries have shown interest in setting up units in Bihar. I am leaving for Saudi Arabia next month, or in October, to interact with the overseas entrepreneurs. We have several offers from these countries. Besides, we have decided to set up a land bank that will enable the state to provide land to the investors.
HT: Are you satisfied with law and order across the state? Or do you think there is need to rejuvenate the law enforcing agencies in the state?
CM: Although I am not fully satisfied but I can say that the law and order should be better. I have convened a high-level meeting of all the SPs and DMs to discuss ways and means to give teeth to law and sharpen its response. Believe me, the situation will be arrested and controlled. Besides, I have also decided to fix responsibility on the DM's-SP's for any serious criminal offence across their respective jurisdictions. Action would also be taken against these top officials if lapses are found to have happened under their watch.