Congress validates Hemant’s crowning as Jharkhand CM

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New Delhi 2 Jul: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is preparing to form a new government in the mineral-rich state of Jharkhand with the Indian National Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). This government would have former deputy CM Hemant Soren as the CM of the tribal-dominated state.

According to sources in the national party, the Congress high command has given its approval to forming the government with JMM and RJD. Earlier, when JMM had exited the BJP-led coalition, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had not been keen on forming a government with JMM. Instead, the state went into President’s Rule from January 18 and thus was under the control of Congress-led UPA government.

The fresh development comes nearly six months after JMM had pulled the plug on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Jharkhand and President’s Rule was imposed on the backward state since January 18.

Hemant Soren, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s leader of legislature party and son of party supremo, Sibu Soren, is making the final arrangements with senior leaders of the Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee including several of its Jharkhand MLAs.

A Congress MLA from Jharkhand said that several details are being thrashed out including how to share cabinet portfolios considering the fractured popular mandate in the state. Congress insiders clarified that former deputy CM Hemant Soren will be the chief minister of the state. The Congress has also asked for working out a common minimum programme for the coalition, which had not been there in the last BJP-JMM coalition despite more than two years of rule.

The coalition being finalized between these parties has drawn the criticism of many including former chief minister of Jharkhand Babulal Marandi, who broke away from the BJP to float his own Jharkhnad Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), which has been gaining popular support fast and is expected to make a serious dent on the vote bases of both the national parties in the coming days.

“The fractured mandate should have led to dissolution of the state assembly and declaration of elections. For five and a half months, they could not form the government. That means that there has been some unholy deal struck between the parties. How can such a government deliver development?” said Marandi.

Binod Pandey, JMM spokesperson, said that the party leaders had left after meeting with party chief and Dumka Lok Sabha MP Sibu Soren.

JMM has 18 legislators, Congress has 13 but will be supported by five MLAs from RJD and six independent MLAs including the left party Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC) MLA Aroop Chatterjee. This would bring the rag tag coalition’s tally to a bare majority with 43 seats in the 81-member assembly.

The other independents also include former Jharkhand education minister Bandhu Tirkey, who has been trying to bring independent MLAs together to support a Congress-led government.

Since JMM walked out of the government, there were several contenders for the Chief Minister’s post from within the state Congress leadership including former union tourism minister Subodhkant Sahay, Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Balmuchu and others.

The last government formed by JMM-Congress-RJD was head by the independent MLA Mahhu Koda, who had been made the CM. He had been arrested while in power in November 2009 and spent more than three years in custody till recently.

In the last government, BJP had provided 18 seats, JD-U 2 seats, JMM 18 seats and six from AJSU Party. These were results based on the 2009 state assembly elections in Jharkhand. After elections JMM and BJP had formed a government but BJP pulled the plug on the coalition in May 2010 plunging the state into President’s Rule.

A government was formed in September 2010 yet again and JMM later claimed that it was formed on the premise that there would be CM’s from JMM and BJP for 28 months each. BJP denied this and on January 8, 2013, JMM withdrew support from the government.

However, it is believed that JMM had other internal problems with the another coalition partner All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) Party over cabinet berths and incursions by the latter into JMM’s political territory.

The move to separate from the BJP and form a government with Congress’ support has largely been seen by experts as Hemant Soren trying to validate his position as JMM’s chief-in-waiting.

Hemant Soren has low popularity amongst his party leaders, who are more loyal to his father, a veteran politician who agitated both in mainstream and underground for separate statehood for Jharkhand.

Impact on Lok Sabha Elections 2014

The alliance between Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Congress at the state level is indicative of a possible pre-poll alliance in the upcoming general elections next year (2014) as well as the state assembly elections, scheduled to be completed by December 2013.

In 2009, Congress had contested all 14 LS seats in Jharkhand by itself leading to winning only one seat (Ranchi LS constituency).

In 2004, in a joint effort between JMM and Congress, Congress had won 6 out of 9 seats and JMM had won four out of five, giving the UPA government 10 out of total 14 seats from Jharkhand.

A renewed pre-poll partnership will bring both parties more votes than they could win with waning support for both in the state made world famous by corruption.

Jharkhand facts

  • 8 coalitions formed since November 15, 2000
  • JMM chief Sibu Soren has been CM thrice; twice with Congress support
  • Congress-JMM-RJD also supported former CM Madhu Koda
  • Currently state under President’s Rule, for the third time in less than 13 years
  • BJP and other regional parties had asked for dissolution of assembly and fresh elections

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