'No question of RJD joining my govt or having an alliance with the JD (U)'
In a first interview after winning the trust vote on May 23, Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi talked of his priorities, governance and his roadmap for delivering the goods in less than a year's time to turn around the party's fortunes before the crucial 2015 assembly polls.
He also talked of dissidence in the JD (U) and his relationship with former chief minister Nitish Kumar, whom he called a tall leader. Excerpts from the interview with Anirban Guha Roy and Anil Kumar:
What are the priorities for your government before the 2015 assembly elections?
I have less than 12 months to deliver. For me, toning up law and order, which took a slight dip during the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections due to various reasons, is a priority area.
Unlike the bad situation in 2005, when my predecessor Nitish Kumar first took over the reins on Bihar, he has handed over the state (to me) in a good shape. We have a good roadmap of development and I do not feel there is much scope for new schemes. All we need is to take it forward so that every section left out of the benefits can be covered.
Since the NDA split last year, the GSDP has shown signs of fatigue. How will you instil confidence in investors and revive growth?
I am focusing on better law and order as it builds confidence among people, and is also a precondition for growth. We have already done a lot in the power sector by pushing the energy availability to 2400 MW. Our target is to achieve 4500 MW to 5000 MW by 2015, which will enable us to provide power 24x7 to households and the industrial sector. We will be able to sustain our growth.
There is speculation of RJD joining your government after their unconditional support. What do you have to say about your avowed anti-RJD stand?
This is a hypothetical question. There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. But still, I must clarify that we did not ask for their support. When they extended unconditional support, without our asking for it, we thought it was a good gesture. We thank them for this. JD (U) state president Bashishth Narayan Singh has also ruled out any alliance with RJD or its joining our government. This is all a media creation.
But, political circles are abuzz of an imminent RJD-JD (U) patchup?
We must understand that the fight against communal forces is a major challenge. We are also fighting against communal forces and so are they. In view of this, we can work together. Fighting for a broad common cause is one thing while having an alliance or joining a government is an altogether different matter.
The BJP has described you as a "weak CM" who will be remote controlled. How will you be able to overcome dissidence in JD (U)?
This is a reflection of a mean mindset, which restricts them (the BJP) from accepting anybody from weaker sections as first among equals. Those dubbing me as a "dummy CM" are the ones wearing coloured glasses and unable to see things in the right perspective. They are the ones (the BJP) who are remote-controlled from Nagpur. Tell me, can they defy (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat?
Nitish Kumar has always been a champion of Mahadalits and always acknowledged my initiatives for welfare of the weaker sections. As for dissidence, there is none. I have full confidence to take everybody along.
What will now be Nitish Kumar's role?
He has already defined it. He is going to strengthen the organisation to deal with the challenges. He will be more effective outside the government. Of course, we will be seeking his guidance as he has vast and rich experience. He will continue to coordinate between the government and the party for taking the message of development to the people and checking communal forces.
Will you continue holding the janata durbar? Land-related problems came up as a major grievance of people coming to the durbar?
Yes, I will continue to hold the janata durbar. Disputes relating to land are a major cause for concern and we are looking into it. Land reforms is an important agenda and we have taken a slew of measures in that sphere. We will ensure that such cases are resolved to the benefit of the weaker sections.
Will you step up the demand of special status for Bihar?
Of course, we will. I intend to forcefully put up the demand before the new NDA government at the Centre. The previous Congress-led UPA government did not do justice to Bihar even as it gave the same status to Telangana in a matter of hours.
I have already talked to PM-designate Narendra Modi when the latter congratulated me for becoming the chief minister. I told him that giving special status to Bihar will send the right message among the poor and weaker sections - the groups that the new union government wants to work for. We will thank them, if they grant us the status. Or else, we will continue our agitation for achieving it.
If the BJP-led centre gives Bihar the coveted status, won't the credit go to BJP?
Everybody knows we have worked hard to make it state and a national issue. If Bihar gets the status, the credit will invariably go to JD (U), which has sponsored its cause all along.