Politics in Jharkhand is both a tragedy and a farce. This is the young, 12-year old state where politicians have always played and the people have paid.
9.30 am: Jharkhand cabinet meets. With 7 of the 12 ministers present, the cabinet authorises chief minister Arjun Munda to resign and recommend dissolution of the state assembly.
10.30 am: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren calls on the Governor and submits a letter withdrawing JMM’s support from the government.
11.30 am: Munda meets the governor and hands over his resignation and the cabinet resolution.
12.30 pm: PTI quotes Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed as saying that the Governor was not bound to accept the recommendation given by a minority government. He argues that with the JMM withdrawing support from the BJP-led government, it no longer enjoyed confidence of the majority.
So, does that mean Congress (14 MLAs) is trying to cobble up a majority with the JMM (18), RJD (5) and Independents (2)? Till Tuesday evening Congress had not staked its claim for the simple reason that even with the support of the JMM, RJD and the Independent MLAs, it still would fall short (at 39) of the halfway mark of 41 in a House of 81 members.
The BJP in turn took a holier-than-thou posture and intoned that the Assembly needed to be dissolved so as to avoid horse-trading. It also maintained that at 9.30 am, when the cabinet met, the JMM had not yet withdrawn support formally and hence the cabinet resolution was binding on the Governor.
The pitch for the Congress has been queered by Baburam Marandi of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha ( JVM-Prajantrik). The JVM, which has 11 MLAs in the House and had a pre-poll alliance with the Congress, has drifted away from the national party and wants a fresh mid-term poll in the state.
The young, 12-year-old state has already been governed by as many as eight governments. It has also gone through two spells of President’s Rule and appears headed for the third.
The JMM, which is clearly keen to remain in power, is busy negotiating with both BJP and the Congress. After withdrawing support on the ground that the BJP had gone back on an understanding that after 28 months, a new chief minister from the JMM would be installed, it is now open to the idea of the CM’s chair being held by the BJP for the rest of the term—provided the CM is someone other than Arjun Munda.
Political circles in Ranchi claim that the JMM has kept its communication channels open with the Congress also. The Congress, according to these sources, has communicated that it would be open to an arrangement under which someone from the Congress will be the CM while the JMM would be given a place in the union council of ministers.
The state has seen it all. In 2005, the BJP flew Independent MLAs to Haryana to prevent ‘poaching’. In 2006, the parties accepted a rag-tag coalition headed by Madhu Koda, an Independent MLA. In 2010, BJP withdrew support from the JMM Government after Shibu Soren voted with the UPA and against a cut motion moved by the NDA in the Lok Sabha. Then the two came together again and Arjun Munda became the CM.
The fractured mandate and the resultant coalitions have allowed politicians to have their way in a state, rich with minerals, industry and forests. Not surprisingly, former chief minister Madhu Koda and four former cabinet ministers are in jail for over two years, charged with money laundering, violating FEMA Rules and for acquiring disproportionate assets.
The bureaucracy has been no better. Several IAS officers have faced corruption charges in the state. And a retired DGP of Police was accused of misusing SS ( Secret Service) Funds meant for intelligence gathering, worth over Rs eight crore, and destroying all papers to maintain secrecy.
Even the Raj Bhavan has not been spared in this state, which has the dubious distinction of having the premises of an OSD and a PS to former Governor Sibte Razi, raided by the CBI.
Despite a poor track record and a number of corruption scandals tainting the government, the BJP is surprisingly confident of doing well if an election is held this year. That is partly because it has been in power for the longest time in the state and has a core constituency. The confidence also stems from the disarray in the Congress ranks, which does not have a state-level leader to boast of; and because tribal votes can be safely expected to be split between the JMM and the JVM.
With industrialists and investors falling over each other to corner the state’s minerals, one is never sure of the role big money is playing in politics. The suspicion gets stronger when one maps the periods of ‘instability’ in the state, triggered always by some very minor issues like replacement of the Electricity Board chairman or non-construction of a particular road.
People get the government they deserve. And unless people in Jharkhand learn to exercise their franchise wisely, they will keep getting shortcharged, one fears.
"People get the government they deserve. And unless people in Jharkhand learn to exercise their franchise wisely, they will keep getting shortcharged, one fears."
Why only Jharkhand? People of India rarely exercise their franchise wisely.
Thoughtful people, most of all the tribal population, must ponder what useful purpose was served by the creation of Jharkhand. Cautionary tale for so many other demands for statehood.
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