Congress to announce government with JMM in Jharkhand today

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New Delhi, July 3, 2013: The Indian National Congress with 13 MLAs has agreed to another state-government with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), supported by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

The mineral-rich state of Jharkhand has been under President’s Rule since January 19, after JMM withdrew support from the Arjun Munda-led government on January 8. This was the third time that President’s Rule was imposed on the state since its formation on November 15, 2000 and the second time since the last state assembly elections in December 2009.

As per sources, a pact for sharing of departments has been arrived at between Congress, RJD, JMM. Under the said pact, a chief minister will be appointed from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, possibly Hemant Soren, former deputy CM and the party’s leader of legislature party. Besides this, four ministers and a new speaker will be appointed from the JMM which has 18 MLAs from the last state assembly elections in 2009. The Congress will appoint five ministers from its 13 legislators and RJD two from its five MLAs.

A JMM leader said that the three names shortlisted by the party to appoint as speaker include former state health minister Hemlal Murmu, former state welfare minister Haji Hussain Ansari and party veteran Simon Marandi.

Hemant Soren and senior JMM leader Champai Soren (minister in the last BJP-led government with tribal affairs and transport portfolios) will meet with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi this evening to finalise the details along with senior Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee leaders. Following this, a formal announcement is expected from the allies.

Due to the party’s low numbers, there has never been a Congress chief minister in the state since its formation on November 15, 2000.

Though past coalitions in the state has opted for deputy CMs including from the BJP, JMM and AJSU Party, Congress has not opted to appointed a deputy CM as yet.

“Independent MLAs supporting the coalition include Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey, Jarmundi MLA Harinarayan Rai, Panki MLA Bidesh Singh, Bishunpur MLA Chamra Linda, Nirsa MLA Arup Chatterjee (Marxist Coordination Committee) and Jagannathpur MLA Geeta Koda,” said Supriyo Chatterjee, JMM spokesperson.

Geeta Koda is the wife of Chaibasa MP and former CM Madhu Koda, who is accused in disproportionate assets and Prevention Of Money Laundering Act cases. The matters are pending before special courts of the enforcement directorate and CBI.

Sita Soren, JMM MLA for Jama constituency and Hemant’s widowed sister-in-law, is absconding since the High Court ordered the CBI to arrest her in April this year.

I. Timeline:

  • Decemeber 30, 2009 – Sibu Soren made CM for third time following state assembly election
  • April 28, 2010 – Sibu Soren votes for UPA in a BJP-sponsored cut motion Lok Sabha.
  • May 31 , 2010 – Sibu Soren resigns as CM after BJP withdraws support and no offer from Congress for government.
  • September 10, 2010 – BJP’s Arjun Munda takes over as CM for third time, leading BJP-JMM-AJSU Party-JD(U) government.
  • January 7, 2013 – JMM announces withdrawal support from Arjun Munda government
  • January 8, 2013 – Arjun Munda resigns as CM
  • January 19, 2013 – Union cabinet approves President’s Rule in Jharkhand

II. Government in Jharkhand after 2009 state assembly election:

a. BJP-led government (December 30, 2009 to May 31, 2010; September 10, 2010 to January 8, 2013)

Party BJP JMM AJSU JD(U) Independents
MLA 18 18 5 2 2

 

b. Proposed JMM government

Party

Congress

JMM

RJD

Independents

MLA

18

13

5

(1 added after Hatia bypoll in 2012)

6

 

Cons outweigh the pros of a JMM-Congress tie up in Jharkhand

Taint might cost Congress heavy for share in 14 LS seats

Supporting a regional party, Congress is eyeing a major chunk of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand in the upcoming 2014 general elections.

This time, the government is to be led by Hemant Soren, former deputy CM and leader of legislature party of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. Along with the experience of having presented two budgets before the state assembly as the state’s finance minister, he is also known more popularly as the son of JMM supreme Sibu Soren or ‘Guruji’ to party workers and followers.

The son didn’t have much to learn form the father in terms of leading the state as though the senior Soren has been chief minister thrice, the highest term was for five months and the lowest for 10 days. The reason being that Sibu Soren has been elected to the Lok Sabha from the Dumka constituency several times but not won a state assembly seat even after running for elections.

Hemant Soren’s foray into politics began early but he gained prominence after the untimely demise (some cry murder) of his elder brother, Durga Soren, who enjoyed high popularity amongst the party’s others leaders, members and supporters.

This could be the first big hurdle for the Congress as they are supporting the elevation of a man who does not have the full support of his party or its leaders. The father is old and ailing and does not appear in public much. But, as long as he is around, he can rally support from the party’s veterans for his son.

Secondly, JMM is dwindling in popular support while other regional parties such as former CM Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) or JVM-P and former deputy CM Sudesh Mahato’s All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) Party are gaining ground in the state. Experts are of the opinion that the people are looking towards these parties as alternatives to the national parties.

Of course, Congress has the option of rallying support from the other parties. Mahato has strong ties with the Congress – a relationship forged via Pranab Mukherjee while he was the Jangipur MP.

JVM-P, with its two MPs, was giving outside support to the Congress-led UPA but withdrew support after the announcement of FDI in multi-brand retail in India last year.

The third major problem for the Congress in supporting JMM may be against the vision espoused by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who in September 2012, toured parts of Jharkhand looking at reviving the party in the state.

In the 2004 general elections, it won six of nine seats in partnership with JMM, which won four of five it contested.

In 2009, Ranchi MP, Subodhkant Sahay was the only Congress MP from the state.

Sahay’s seat is under threat in his own constituency and could lose the seat. Of six state assembly constituencies within Ranchi Lok Sabha constituency, Congress has MLAs from only one. One of these is Khijri MLA Shawna Lakra, who is now in jail on charges of committing murder.

Sahay has also not been an organizational force for the party in his state despite having been union minister through UPA-1 and through most of UPA-2.

Interestingly, Sahay had fielded his own brother with a Congress ticket for a by-poll in his old state assembly constituency of Hatia. Sahay’s younger brother lost and his election deposit was forfeited as the number of votes for the Congress was less than 1/6 of the electorate’s size.

Organisationally, there are several more cons the Congress will face. One is in the form of current leader of Congress Legislature Party, Rajendra Prasad Singh, who has a strong hold over local unions, but just manages to win his own seat and barely manages to provide some support to the rest of the party’s growth.

Fourth, the major hurdle before the Congress in the 2014 general elections is a soft-but-certain impact of the anti-corruption campaigns by BJP and other parties post the 2G and coal block allocation scams worth lakhs of thousands of crores as per the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The national party has tried to repair its image in several places but what can it do about existing alliances with tainted parties. But it seems strange timing to invite an already tainted party back.

In the case of JMM, there are several scams including the infamous cash-for-vote scam during PV Narasimha Rao’s tenure as prime minister.

Then, there is a CBI investigation into a cash-for-vote scam in the 2012 biennial Rajya Sabha election. After income tax department raided a vehicle purportedly carrying cash on behalf of a candidate to an MLA, the poll was countermanded (a first in the political history of the country) and Jharkhand High Court directed the CBI to investigate the matter.

It led to a warrant for the arrest of Sita Soren, widow of Sibu Soren’s deceased older son, Durga Soren.

In fact, in April 2013, the Jharkhand HC had issued a directive to the CBI to arrest Sita Soren, who has since been absconding. Earlier this year, there was an FIR for kidnapping and assault by a former aide and a counter FIR by Sita Soren. The aide had said that the legislator had threatened him because he knew about all her transactions. Sources in the investigation agency said that the aide is in the CBI’s list of witnesses.

Also named in the CBI chargesheet are Rajendra Mahal, an associate of Sita Soren, and Sita Soren’s father BN Majhi of Odisha.

During the course of the investigation, the houses and offices of MLAs of almost every party in Jharkhand were raided including JMM stalwarts and Congress MLAs.

While the popular mandate remains fractured in the state, in the last general elections, BJP won eight of the 14 LS seats, but lost one in a 2011 by-poll to the JVM-P.

The RSS has made deeper inroads into Jharkhand including in tribal-dominated areas, who have, till now, been supporters of the Congress as well as its allies.

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