Uncertain Show Of Strength
With the dipping mercury, electioneering for the five-phase assembly polls in mineral-rich and corruption-haunted Jharkhand state is hotting up. The Rs 4000-crore scam allegedly scripted by former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and his associates has provided enough fodder for campaigning to all the parties. The polls are to be held in five phases on November 25 and December 2, 8, 12 and 18 while counting of votes will take place on December 23.
As far as pre-poll alliances are concerned, the stances and exercises of different parties appear to be a ‘marriage of convenience’ without any ideological similarity. Till the announcement of poll dates NDA partners BJP and JD(U) were harping on going it alone for all the 81 seats. During the Koda regime and President’s rule, they never worked in unison or launched joint campaigns be it agitations against corruption and price rise or Raj Bhawan’s gherao programme. In the 2005 Jharkhand assembly elections, BJP with 30 seats had emerged as the largest single party while JD(U) had bagged six seats. BJP had got 23.59 per cent of the polled votes while Congress could garner only 12.04 per cent. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, BJP contested 12 seats, won eight seats and established lead in 39 assembly segments while remained second in 23 segments. Under poll pact, its ally JD(U) contested 2 seats, won none and established lead in just one assembly segment and could not remain second in any of the segments. Bolstered by this statistics, BJP state leadership, especially its state president Raghubar Das was in favour of going it alone while JD(U) had demanded 30 seats in the beginning. After several rounds of talks and outburst of frayed tempers from both sides, 14 seats were spared for JD(U). State BJP leaders were averse to sparing even 14 seats but swallowed the agreement as a bitter pill for NDA’s health and as compulsion of coalition politics. Political observers are of the view that JD(U) would be more than happy with the 14 seats as it would have faced the problem of survival in Jharkhand if it had gone alone at the hustings. Sources say the seat-sharing talks between Congress-JVM had almost failed but the BJP-JD(U) pact worked as a cementing force for the Congress-led alliance.
While breaking away from BJP in 2006, Babulal Marandi had said that he would maintain equi-distance from both the BJP and the Congress. He was most vociferous in his attacks on Congress for ‘stage managing’ the installation of Madhu Koda-led UPA government in the state and later on imposition and extension of President’s rule without dissolution of assembly. He had repeatedly asserted that hovering around the residences of Ahmed Patel or Venkaiah Naidu for any favour was not his cup of tea. However, as a firm believer in the saying, “ there are no permanent friends or foes in politics”, Marandi changed his gears and started working on alliance with Congress. Initially he kept on harping to contest all the 81 assembly seats but the ground realities and political compulsions appear to have compelled him to do away with the egos and whims and read the writings on the wall. During his talks with Congress central leaders he was initially insistent on 31 seats, which came down to 25 during next round of negotiations and the deal was finally sealed on 19 seats with six seats—Bokaro, Barkattha, Baghmara, Madhupur, Silli and Ichagarh—being identified and mutually agreed for ‘friendly fights’. Aligning with Congress is interpretated as a tactical move on the part of Marandi to project his party’s image at national level. This is also because ever since it came into being, the JVM has not been able to win any seat barring the Koderma seat contested by Babulal Marandi. During by-elections of Jamshedpur and Palamu parliamentary constituencies, Daltonganj and Tamar assembly constituencies and Lok Sabha elections, 2009, the JVM drew a blank (barring Koderma) and failed to register its effective presence. With the new-found friend in the Congress, the JVM leaders hope to emerge as a force to reckon with in the state politics and play
an important role in formation of next government. Barring Marandi’s support to Manmohan-led government, the two parties have not worked jointly on any issue even for a single day.
But this new alignment had its toll too on JVM. Several central office-bearers including vice presidents Som Marandi and Vinod Sharma, general secretary Ashok Verma and secretary Deepak Prakash deserted Marandi accusing him of pledging the prestige of JVM and Jharkhand in the hands of Congress. Pained by his decision of joining hands with the Congress, majority of his (Marandi’s) supporters with BJP-RSS background have left him and are back to BJP fold.
All the constituent partners of UPA, including the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which are backing the Manmohan Singh-led government at the centre, have raised banners against each other particularly Congress in the state. JMM after a long time is contesting all the 81 seats while the RJD-LJP alliance supported by CPM and Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC) has fielded 70 candidates. NCP is contesting 16 seats while TMC has announced 18 candidates for the first two phase of polls to be held for 41 seats. All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), led by Sudesh Mahto, former Home Minister of Jharkhand, too has fielded its candidates in more than 50 per cent of the total seats. Jharkhand Navnirman Morcha (JNM), the newly floated political outfit of Madhu Koda, is also contesting six assembly seats in west Singhbhum district including his wife Madhu Koda from Jagannathpur, the seat earlier held by Koda.
However, BJP-JD(U) and Congress-JVM appear to be the two strongest combines and a direct fight between the two is expected in most of the constituencies. Both the alliances are directing their ‘political missiles’ against each other for fostering Madhu Koda, hogging media headlines for alleged money laundering worth thousands of crores. BJP says installation of Koda as CM was planned, perfected and executed at 10 Janpath and Congress leaders received monetary favours during his (Koda’s) two-year term. On the other hand Congress says Kods is a creation of RSS-BJP fraternity, which tutored him to be corrupt. Both the major combines are going soft on other players like JMM, RJD, AJSU, JNM etc as they may require their support in the event of fractured mandate and hung assembly.
Who could be the CM
The 28th state of India, carved out of Bihar in November 2008 has seen six chief ministers during nine years of its existence. The million-dollor question this time is: Who will be the next chief minister? Tribal or non-tribal? Will he be able to lead the state for full term of five years or in the face of a fractured mandate the change of guard will often take place like that in previous years? Although no party barring JMM has declared its chief ministerial candidate, the internal rivalry for the top post is on ever since the poll process has been announced.
BJP: Former CM and Jamshedpur MP Arjun Munda appears to be the front-runner. He is the partry’s biggest tribal face in the state and has six year’s experience as minister and chief minister. His nomination as the chairman of BJP Election Campaign Committee in the state is being viewed as a signal that he enjoys more confidence and patronage of party’s central leaders. However, his tenure as CM is also known for several controversial decisions including over 50 MoUs signed with prominent industrial houses which are yet to materialize on ground. State party president Raghuvar Das is another formidable contender who held important portfolios like building construction and finance for six years during the NDA regime. Under his stewardship, the party won eight Lok Sabha seats out of 14 in the April, 2009 elections. However, he does not seem to enjoy the support of all the factions of the party. During ticket distribution too, he culd not emerge as powerful as expected keeping in view his track record in the last Lok Sabha elections. Former union finance and foreign minister and Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha could be another dark horse. Sinha is a former IAS officer and a visionary leader but does not have good rapport with central leadership. He also does not have the RSS background and is not acceptable to all sections of the party.
Yashwant Sinha could be another dark horse. Sinha is a former IAS officer and a visionary leader but does not have good rapport with central leadership. He also does not have the RSS background and is not acceptable to all sections of the party.
Congress: Subodh Kant Sahai, party’s only Member of Lok Sabha from Jharkhand, has long political experience and administrative capability. He also served in the cabinet of VP Singh and Chandrashekhar as union minister of state. Joined Congress after passing several years in Janata Party, Janata Dal, Samajwadi Janata Party and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. He is not acceptable to all factions of the party in the state. JPCC president and three-time Ghatshila MLA Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu is the other strong contender. A Christian tribal, Balmuchu had been a minister in the RJD-led government of undivided Bihar for few months but lacks experience as compared to Sahay.
JVM: Its founder president and Koderma MP Babulal Marandi was the most popular chief minister of the state. Known for his development initiatives as CM, Marandi has no competitor in the party and enjoys the state-wide popularity. He has also served as union minister of environment & Forests and national vice president of BJP. The ‘domicile agitation’, directed against non-tribals, during his chief ministership adversely affected his popularity graph. His pre-poll alliance with Congress led to large-scale desertions in party’s rank & file and made a dent in his support base.
JMM: Former chief minister, central minister and present MP of Dumka, Sibu Soren is the most popular face among the tribals of the state and undisputed leader of JMM. Despite having long experience as legislator, parliamentarian and minister, Soren lacks the required development vision and is not very popular among non-tribals.
By P Vatsal