Jharkhand: Hurtling from one crisis to another

The next crisis is over the choice of the new chief minister


Prasanna Mohanty | May 25, 2010

Jharkhand may have come out of one crisis with the BJP finally deciding to withdraw support to the Shibu Soren government and paving the way thereby for the Congress to step in and try to form an alternate government in coalition with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), but this may turn out to be a crisis of another kind—finding a suitable face to head the new government.

For one, the Congress has to make a tough choice of letting the JMM, which is the larger partner with 18 legislators to their 14, lead the government. That is primarily because the incumbent chief minister Shibu Soren is out of contention. As a member of parliament, he must get elected to the state assembly within six months of heading the government—a time frame that expires on June 30—and this seems out of question now. And there is a deep fissure within the JMM and the Congress to let his son Hemant Soren, a first time legislator, become the next chief minister as the senior Soren would like to. There are many senior leaders in the rank, including Hemlal Murmu, Teklal Mahato and Simon Marandi, but not a commonly acceptable face.

Should the Congress decide to lead the government, it is handicapped by the fact that it doesn’t have a tribal face. The only two tribal legislators in the rank are Sawna Lakra and Geeta Shree Oraon--both are first timers and without any administrative experience. Former deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi lost the last election from Dumka. Given the general sentiment in favour of a tribal heading the government in the state, the Congress will have problem in going for a non-tribal chief minister.

The other option that the Congress has is to opt for Babulal Marandi, former chief minister who now heads the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) and a key ally. But with only 11 party legislators, JVM (P) will be a junior partner and may not find it easy for either the JMM or the Congress to accept him as the chief minister.

Babulal Marandi has another problem. Having been a chief minister, he cannot play second fiddle in the coalition. That is why, as of now, he is keeping himself out of the government, taking a stand that he would support the alternate government from outside.
In fact, he has set his eyes on the next round of elections which he thinks would be held sooner than later. In the midst of the political crisis in the state, he was busy galvanizing his party workers and held a party convention in Ranchi over the last weekend. The massive turnout only emboldened him to give a clear message that they should prepare for a mid-term elections. Given the fractured mandate that the last assembly election threw up, he remains skeptical of the stability of any government in the state.

Meanwhile, Shibu Soren and his son Hemant are supposed to reach New Delhi to hold talks with the Congress leaders about formation of the next government. The fate of the state will be decided over the next week here in New Delhi before Soren goes back to prove his majority in the assembly on May 31. The success or failure of this would depend on the choice of the chief minister.




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