Will Shibu Soren win for the ninth time from Dumka?

Will Shibu Soren win for the ninth time from Dumka?

JMM supremo Shibu Soren filing his nomination papers in Dumka.  His son and former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren accompanied him. DH photo

Nearly 40 years ago, when Indira Gandhi was making her comeback in January 1980 Lok Sabha elections, one tribal leader who withstood Mrs Gandhi’s aandhi (storm) in Dumka, it was a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) candidate Shibu Soren.

Dumka was then part of undivided Bihar where 1944-born Soren emerged as a powerful tribal leader who stopped Congress’ Prithvi Chandra Kisku in his tracks by winning the 1980 LS polls. Since then, in the last four decades, Soren has won from Dumka eight times and lost thrice.

Having served as Union Minister as well as Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Soren is revered as a demi-God in this part of tribal-belt and, therefore, called Guruji. His opponents, however, term his pocket organisation JMM as an outfit “which has extorted non-tribals and exploited tribals”.

“Soren was the first Union Minister in the history of Indian polity who had to resign from the Cabinet (headed by Manmohan Singh) in November 2006 after a Delhi court found him guilty in the murder of his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha,” a local scribe informed Deccan Herald. It is believed that Jha was taken from Delhi to Ranchi and killed.

Jha, according to the CBI investigation, was aware of the JMM bribery case during no-confidence motion brought against Narasimha Rao Government in 1993 and was constantly asking for his cut of money. Jha was, therefore, allegedly killed in Ranchi in 1994.

Soren quit as Union Minister after Manmohan Singh asked him to do so following the court verdict which came 12 years after the killing. The court ruling would have sealed Soren’s fate and prevented him from contesting any further election. But the Delhi High Court on August 23, 2007, set aside the lower court order and acquitted Soren. “The trial court’s analysis is far from convincing and not sustainable,” said the Delhi HC.

Once acquitted, Soren served as Chief Minister of Jharkhand for a short span, where his alliance partner was the BJP, the party which earlier was baying for his blood. But he had to quit as CM midway after he was defeated in the Assembly election by a political novice Raja Peter from Tamad Assembly constituency (near Jamshedpur).

The BJP, meanwhile, has fielded Sunil Soren against ‘Guruji’ in Dumka, in the hope that its candidate, who was runners up in 2014 Lok Sabha polls (Sunil lost by around 40,000 votes), could prevent Shibu Soren from winning for the ninth time from his fiefdom when it goes to poll on May 19.

DUMKA Lok Sabha constituency (Jharkhand)

(Reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes)

2014 winner: Shibu Soren (JMM)

Runners up: Sunil Soren (BJP)

Margin of votes: Over 39,000.

2019 contestants: Shibu Soren (JMM) vs Sunil Soren (BJP).

Total Voters: 11,28,361.