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Sahay slams ‘bureaucrat’ Ramesh

Ranchi, June 21: It is isn’t clear which faction of the Congress was behind the ugly show of black flags against Jairam Ramesh during Tuesday’s brainstorming session of the party. But, it was an indication of how deeply divided the state Congress is, especially after having drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand.

In an exclusive interview to The Telegraph, Congress veteran and former Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay doesn’t hide his dislike for Ramesh’s way of functioning, but says the state party needs to learn from the way Narendra Modi was able to rejuvenate an “almost dead” BJP. Excerpts:

TT: As a senior Congressman with deep roots in state politics, what is your assessment of the ruckus that was created by party men at Tuesday’s Chintan Shivir?

Sahay: No comment. I don’t want to get involved in all this.

Wasn’t it an attempt to single out one person, Jairam Ramesh, and shift all the blame on him for the party’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls here?

That may be your assessment but the party is never dependent on any one person.

Will you elaborate?

Everyone at the ground level felt disconnected. They were confused by his (Ramesh) style of functioning. He is a bureaucrat, not a party man. For example, most of the times, none of the party workers knew when he was coming or going (to and from Jharkhand). In case of formal announcements, launches or foundation laying ceremonies, senior leaders here ought to be present. But that never happened. As a result, whatever good you do, when you don’t engage party workers at the ground level, it fails to create an impact in the long run. There are many more issues like this.

But in the last 14 years, your party has hardly been able to make a mark in Jharkhand. Only recently, there seemed to be some serious attempt at development through the Saranda initiative conceptualised by Ramesh.

Congress was never insignificant here, but its leadership was. That is why it failed to cultivate good leaders at the grassroots, especially among tribals. There was a time when we had firebrand tribal faces like Kartik Oraon, Bagun Somrai, Karamchand Bhagat. We have no one today. Just because you want to make a tribal a party leader, picking up anyone will hardly serve the purpose. This practice over the years backfired on us. By the way, see the mess the BJP has created in Jharkhand in the last 14 years. Now, they are faking protests against power cuts (smiles).

How do you think the anti-Congress mood can be reversed in Jharkhand ahead of the Assembly elections?

I am impressed by how Narendra Modi won the Lok Sabha elections. He revived an almost dead BJP. We also need to learn, but that doesn’t mean aping him. His strategy worked in three phases. First, he cultivated and activated the party rank and file from the bottom and managed to create potential faces at all levels. For example, he gave a lease of life to Uma Bharati and at the same time kept cultivating old and new partners. Secondly, campaigning was aggressive. Thirdly, and most importantly, by virtue of the first two steps, he managed to make voters more aggressive than his party workers. When elections came, voters virtually worked for him more than party cadets!

UPA was in power for 10 years. You are a two-time MP from Ranchi and was a Union minister. But, most of your projects are non-starters.

In tourism alone, over 150 projects have been pushed and launched by me. Our government at the Centre was always pro-Jharkhand. Governments here made a mess of it. In a federal structure, you can’t force anything on a state.

Is the Congress still in favour of continuing its alliance with the JMM and RJD for the coming Assembly elections?

A meeting is scheduled on June 22 under A.K. Antony’s chairmanship. Along with other senior leaders, I will be attending. Irrespective of performance, at least this government has shown intent to work. It’s a different thing that it lacks experience. Unlike his father, chief minister Hemant Soren isn’t mature enough to head a coalition government. Many factors need to be taken into account. In state elections, regional parties have too many options and all they want is power. You have to think who will help you in the long run. Just look at Bihar and the Lalu-Nitish tie-up.