New Delhi, May 7: Palamau MP Kameshwar Baitha of the JMM has said he did not consider his party to be a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and that even though no formal decision had been taken, the JMM’s vote in the presidential polls would depend on the candidate rather than political alliances.
Baitha’s comments to The Telegraph, made after the JMM ensured victory for its lawyer candidate Sanjeev Kumar in the Rajya Sabha elections with help from ally Ajsu, could well be an indication of things to come — a gradual souring of ties with big brother BJP, whose candidate, S.S. Ahluwalia, had to eat humble pie in the May 3 re-election to the two upper House seats from Jharkhand.
“We do not consider ourselves as part of the NDA. We formed the government with them in the state to prevent instability. Our agreement is only confined to Jharkhand. We parted ways over whether we should elect a local or an outsider. We have won and in the Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha we have no ties with the BJP or the NDA,” said Baitha, a former Maoist leader, but clearly the most visible face of JMM in Parliament.
Before the rescinded March 30 Rajya Sabha polls in Ranchi, the BJP had asked the JMM to formally pledge its loyalty to the NDA at the national level in exchange for their support to Kumar.
Both parties have been ambiguous about the state of their alliance since, though political pundits have clubbed the JMM’s numbers with the NDA’s ever since they became bedfellows in Jharkhand.
The JMM’s victory has shifted some edge from the BJP to the former for the presidential polls in July. “We want a good president and our alliance with the BJP has no bearing on our choice. No one has approached us so far but we know many names are doing the rounds,” he said, adding, “Dada bhale aadmi hain (Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is a good man).”
He said if there was a good minority candidate, then the JMM would support him as it was their ideology to back weaker sections. “Whatever the choice, the party will decide,” said Baitha.
Baitha, a former Maoist zonal commander, is the most visible face of the party in Parliament. Elected while in prison in 2009, he was released on bail last year from Bihar’s Bhabhua jail.
Before Kumar was elected, Baitha and his party chief Shibu Soren were the JMM’s only representation in Parliament. While Soren’s interests in Jharkhand have kept him away from every debate, it is Baitha’s rustic and blunt arguments which voice the JMM’s views here. Recently he was in the news for allegedly roughing up an engineer in Garhwa.
Before getting ready for Parliament, Baitha agreed to speak his mind. “I joined and quit the Maoists on my own. I never claimed any reward. In fact, I spent five years in jail accused of crimes the Maoists committed. Everyone in Delhi has an opinion on how to fight them. I believe you can never defeat them with the gun. As long as inequality and deprivation continue; as long as jobs in all the factories and projects on Adivasi land go to outsiders, youths will keep enlisting in the rebel army. I know. I was one of them.”