Jharkhand Under President’s Rule
Ending the month-long political uncertainty and tussle between JMM and BJP over leading the coalition government, Jharkhand on June 1 was placed under President’s Rule once again after none of the parties claimed to form an alternative government following the resignation of Chief Minister Sibu Soren on May 30 ahead of a trust vote in the assembly.
President Pratibha Patil on June 1, 2010, accepted the Union Cabinet’s recommendation for central rule in the state and placed the Legislative Assembly under suspended animation. The Cabinet recommendation was based on Governor MOH Farook’s report sent on May 31 evening after three major parties—BJP, Congress and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P)—informed Governor that they did not have the numbers to form a government.
The state which has seen seven coalition governments since its formation on November 15, 2000, has been placed under President’s Rule for the second time. Earlier President’s Rule was clamped from January 19, 2009 to December 29, 2009 following the debacle of sitting CM Sibu Soren in Tamar by-election and non-formation of alternative government. That time too, the assembly was kept under suspended animation.
The Sibu government was reduced to a minority on May 24 when BJP (18) and JD-U (2) withdrew support to it following his failure to resign to pave the way for formation of a BJP-led government. JMM, with 18 MLAs, on May 18 had reached a power swapping deal with
the BJP to end the long-standing political impasse in the state. Sibu and BJP national general secretary Arjun Munda in presence of BJP national vice president Karuna Shukla on May 18 had said that both the parties would share power for 28 months each and Soren would resign by May 25 to facilitate the transfer of power. However, Sibu proved to be an unpredictable ally and continued to harp on that he would not resign and his talks were on with Congress also for formation of alternative government that prompted BJP to withdraw support.
The crisis was triggered when Jharkhand CM and Member of Lok Sabha from Dumka, Sibu Soren voted in favour of the Congress during a cut motion in Lok Sabha on April 27. The BJP had immediately announced to withdraw support from it. However, tempted by an opportunity to head the government, the party agreed to negotiate again and Arjun Munda was tipped to be the next Chief Minister. But the JMM continued to flip-flop and add new conditions every other day that culminated into withdrawal of support by BJP and imposition of President’s Rule in the state for the second time in six months.
Babu Lal Marandi’s JVM-P is concentrating on strengthening of its organisation and could be brought to a negotiation table for the formation of an alternative coalition government only if CM’s post is offered to it. Although local Congress leaders like state party president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu and legislature party leader Rajendra Prasad Singh had sent initial feelers to JMM and also participated in the death anniversary ceremony of Sibu’s eldest son the late Durga Soren but were snubbed by central leadership which appears to be more comfortable under President’s Rule. JMM (18) and AJSU (5) along with two independent MLAs—Videsh Singh and Chamra Linda—have formed a front under the chairmanship of Sibu Soren and kept their options open for formation of alternative government. However, it would be very difficult for any party or coalition to offer this front what the BJP was offering in lieu of change of an guard—5 and 3 ministerial berths to JMM and AJSU respectively in a state with 82-member-House where a maximum of 12 ministers (including CM) could be sworn in as per the constitutional provisions.
Soon after the imposition of the President’s Rule, Governor MOH Farook asked the officials to improve the work culture and put development works on the fast lane. Chairing a high-level meeting, Farook directed them to take effective steps for conducting panchayat elections in the state which last saw polls for local bodies in 1977. If there was a need for amendment in the panchayat law, steps should be taken immediately, he stressed, adding that officials should ensure punctuality and efficiency through proper work culture.
By P Vatsal