Political Interview

Mr Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, Congress Rajya Sabha M.P. from Jharkhand

ďInvestors are shying away from JharkhandĒ

Indian politics is, well, mired in politics. Reason why Mr Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu had to contest his Rajya Sabha seat a second time, after the first elections were cancelled on three grounds, one of them precedent setting and damaging. The prime reason for the cancellation was that Rs 2.15 crore was seized from a car of a candidateís relative. Eventually, Mr Balmuchu won, ousting BJP veteran Mr S S Ahluwalia. He spoke to India Empireís Sanjay Kaw shortly after his success
Jharkhand has always been in the news for the wrong reasons. Why?
Our leaders have failed to cater to the aspirations of the masses. This is primarily because maturity isnít one of the strong points of the state leadership. Our entire state machinery is being run by bureaucrats. Thatís why our state has earned a poor reputation, and the media has played a dubious role in further exacerbating this reputation. Itís difficult to get a single positive story out of Jharkhand.

The state was formed way back in 2000. But there has hardly been any development. Why?
Once again I go back to our state leadership. Soon after Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar, most people believed that Bihar would suffer badly and Jharkhand would benefit since the major mineral reserves became a part of our state. But look how tables have turned. While there has undoubtedly been a lot of development in Bihar, our state stands exactly where it was a decade back. You can put it down to leadership that is directionless, and has no real long-term vision for the progress of the state. If you are sitting on so much resources, and yet underperform on a regular basis, something must be wrong somewhere.

With Governor of Jharkhand Dr Syed Ahmed at Raj Bhavan, Ranchi

Do you blame Centre as well for this mess?
Our Central government has always supported all developmental projects in the state. But it is the state administration which has failed to perform its duties. The state on an average spends 30 per cent of the allocated budget. What can the Centre do in such a situation?

Jharkhand was in news for the wrong doings in the Rajya Sabha elections.
The Election Commission cancelled the elections on three grounds. First, some leaders had complained of horse trading. Second, on the day of the poll, Rs 2.15 crore was recovered from the car of a person related to one of the candidates. The third reason was that three MLAs had evidently shown their ballots to some poll agents, apart from their own ones, which is a frivolous reason to cancel an election. The Returning Officer should not have allowed these three MLAs to cast their ballot, and the matter could have been settled then and there. But the ECís decision is bound to set a bad precedent in the future. Now if any candidate is sure of losing his election, his MLAs can show their ballots to other poll agents and get the elections cancelled.

Jharkhand was formed to primarily look after the welfare of the poor tribals. Has this happened?
Nothing of this sort has happened. Our tribals are being marginalized. We have no concrete welfare plans for our tribals.

Now, you yourself are a Rajya Sabha M.P. What is your take on the functioning of the Indian Parliament?
The interest level of both legislators and parliamentarians has gone down over the years. The level of debates in both state assemblies and Parliament is not up to the mark. Only a few participate in these debates. These debates have become redundant as the government is not bound to take action on the issues raised during such debates. But during question-hour, the minister concerned is bound to give his reply.

How do you see the role of the BJP as the main opposition party in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha?
In any Parliamentary system, the main opposition party inevitably has a say in governance, sometimes even directly. But the BJP has always been playing politics for petty political gains. The BJP is embroiled in several controversies. Thatís why it has time and again tried to disrupt the parliamentary proceedings.

Many corruption related cases have come to light in the past few years. What you have to say?
We took action against all those who were found involved in any corruption case. But see the BJP. It did not act against its own former party president Bangaru Laxman, until, of course, he was sentenced to four years jail by a trial court in a Rs one lakh bribery case.

Why the Centre has failed to curb inflation?
Many other countries are also facing this problem. Our efforts are on to bring down inflation of all essential commodities.

Back to Jharkhand. Mines and minerals are being plundered in the state. What action should be taken to preserve these natural resources?
If we come to power, we will not allow the transportation of these resources to other states. Instead, we will use our coal reserves to generate electricity, which we can sell to other states. We will set up our own iron ore plants. This will help us to generate employment for our poor people.

What is your take on the rise of the regional political parties?
The rise of the regional parties has created an imbalance in the political spectrum. All regional parties think for their own states. They are least interested in the growth of the country. This trend is very dangerous for the country.

Why NRIs are not investing in Jharkhand?
Leave alone NRIs, even our businessmen from Delhi and Mumbai are not investing in our state. To attract such investments, we need to create a cordial atmosphere for the business community. One will invest only if one feels his or her investments are safe and secure.

Is Maoism also to be blamed for this?
When Jharkhand was formed, about 90 per cent of Maoists remained in our belt and the rest remained in Bihar. Let me put it straight. Maoism is not a law and order problem. It is more of a social issue. We need to go deeper into this. Then and only then we will be able to address the issue. Only a matured political leadership can bring back Maoists into the mainstream.

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May 2012


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