Even after 14 years, Jharkhand cries for stability

Jharkhand, which came into existence in November 2000, has many firsts to its credit. But the three prominent ones which specially deserve mention here are: This is arguably the first recently formed state where an Independent was sworn in as chief minister, while other major political parties backed his government.

This is the only state where a sitting chief minister lost a byelection to an Independent and, therefore, had to quit. This is the only state where from a chief minister to the present chief secretary have been put behind bars on charges of financial irregularities.

While the first instance was that of Madhu Koda, an Independent MLA from Jagannathpur in Singhbhum district, who served as chief minister from 2006 to 2008 with the support of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, the second case was in reference to Shibu Soren.

Shibu, then a JMM MP, had to contest a by-election within six months of being sworn in as Jharkhand chief minister. But Guruji, as Shibu is fondly known here, lost the bypoll to an Independent candidate Raja Peter from his fiefdom Tamar, a tribal-dominated constituency in maoist-infested zone between Ranchi and Jamshedpur.

This was for the first time that any chief minister lost a bypoll here, that too to an Independent.

The third instance was that of Madhu Koda, the former chief minister, who was accused in a Rs 4,000-crore mining scam. Koda was arrested as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) concluded that he (as the chief minister) and his associates had collected over Rs 4,000 crore by allotting mines to business houses.

This is the only state where the present chief secretary Sajal Chakravarty was also put behind bars a decade back as he (then an absconding IAS officer) was one of the accused in the fodder scam. The man, who was charged with misappropriation of fund, after getting relief from court, was, ironically, appointed finance secretary of Jharkhand.

But then, this did not raise any eyebrow, as Jharkhand is one state which is known for either Maoism or corruption. Rich in minerals, it has lagged in terms of development because of unstable governments. Jharkhand has seen nine governments, five chief ministers (Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda, Madhu Koda, Shibu Soren and Hemant Soren), eight governors, nine speakers and three President’s rule in the last 14 years.

While Munda and Shibu each served as chief minister thrice, Marandi, Koda and Hemant each served as chief minister once. It is believed that for every Jharkhand leader jailed on corruption charge, nearly 30 bureaucrats have been put behind bars for embezzlement of fund.

Cementing alliances
Precisely against this backdrop, that each and every party is, this time, harping on a stable government. However, neither the Congress nor the BJP is contesting the 81 seats in Jharkhand Assembly.

Both the national parties have stitched alliances with regional outfits. While the BJP is in alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) and Ram Vilas Paswan-headed Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the Congress has firmed up its ties with RJD and the JD (U), the latter two having relatively marginal presence compared to Bihar.

It’s only the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) which has fielded its candidates on all the 81 seats and is promising a stable government if voted to power. The JMM has its presence more in the Santhal Pargana region, which has 18 constituencies. This is the area from where Shibu Soren started his political career more than

four decades back. The BJP, which is making deep inroads into JMM’s traditional tribal vote-bank, is, however, giving nightmares to the ruling party headed by Hemant Soren.
In urban areas like Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh and Dhanbad, the BJP is miles ahead of its rival. Reason: The division of so-called secular votes between the JMM, the Congress-led alliance and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) headed by former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi.

Prior to the polls, both the Congress and the BJP had tried to rope in Marandi into their fold. But when neither of the two could succeed, the BJP split the JVM vertically and made its seven MLAs (out of 11 members) join the saffron party. As a consequence, Marandi has been weakened substantially in a state where he was sworn in as the first Chief Minister in November 2000, then heading a BJP-led government.

Such is Marandi’s political isolation that he is himself contesting from two constituencies: Giridih and Dhanwar. He has been left with no choice as most of the heavyweights in his party, including the former deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi, has left the JVM. Quite a pitiable state for a party which got maximum (28.24 per cent) votes but only 11 seats in 2009 Assembly polls.

The Congress, on the other hand, is fighting a lost battle. It’s struggling even in Christian-dominated constituencies like Gumla. But then, the party has itself to blame for the mess. The day it could not reach an understanding with its erstwhile alliance partner – the JMM, it gave the BJP a walkover.

Ironically, Congress leaders continue to be ministers in the 14-month-old Hemant Soren government, although they are pitted against each other. Amid these conflicting signals to the voters, it’s BJP leaders who can’t hide their glee as they are more than hopeful of a repeat of parliamentary poll result when BJP won 12 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.

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