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JMM-Cong ties turn testy in Jharkhand, as CM tries to rein in ally

by | Apr 15, 2022 | India

With the departure of RPN Singh, the relations between JMM and Congress has gone south in Jharkhand as both allies try and jostle for more space.
Hemant Soren

Ranchi: The ties between Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Congress—two major allies of the ruling coalition in Jharkhand, is getting bitter.

Political analysts believe that the manner in which the Congress is exerting pressure on Chief Minister Hemant Soren demanding a ‘reasonable and respectable’ say in governance, the coalition is heading towards rough weather.

“Hemant Soren is not used to pressure tactics from the Congress. Earlier, he took recourse to then All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge RPN Singh, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, whenever he (Soren) found it inconvenient to deal  with local leaders. Singh always came to the CM’s rescue, much to the discomfiture the State Congress leaders,” said party stalwart Roshan Lal Bhatia.

A section of leaders say that the JMM’s relations with the Congress has changed since Avinash Pande took over as AICC in-charge. Concerned about the continued marginalisation of senior party leaders by the CM, which Pande got as feedback from meetings he had with Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee (JPCC) leaders, he began asserting the party’s position and asking for better say in governance, much to the chagrin of the CM.

A senior JMM leader close to Soren said that the CM unhappy with Pande’s idea of framing the common minimum programme (CMP), formation of the coordination committee and adjustment of Congress workers in the 20-point programme implementation committee. The JMM had initially agreed for a CMP and coordination panel while forming the government in 2019, but it were never discussed afterwards.

Emboldened by recent electoral reversal of the Congress’, Soren apparently made it clear to the Congress that he was not in mood to rethink, especially in the face of growing dissension against him his own party. Instead, he has tacitly backed a section of Congress MLAs encouraging them to launch a campaign against Pande.

“Soren is acting astutely, as Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad did to the Congress in Bihar. He enacted the policies, like according a distinctive religious status to Adivasis as Sarna, declaring Urdu as 2nd official language, granting loan waiver to farmers, etc, which were part of the Congress’s manifesto, but never allowed the junior partner to take credit for the same,” argued another party leader, adding that formation of a tribal university was also part of the Congress’s agenda.

Apprehending the likely role of the CM in fanning dissension in the Congress, Bhatia said that they are the same set of MLAs, whose conducts came under the police scanner in the alleged bid to topple the government last year. Irfan Ansari, Naman Bixal Kongari and Umashankar Akela were said to be in touch when the police had on a tip off from another Congress MLA Anup alias Jaimangal Singh busted an alleged design to cause rebellion in the party and engineer collapse of the Soren government. Rajesh Kachhap is another MLA, who have joined the dissidents.

A senior government officer attached to the CMO said that Ansari and Anup Singh had a good rapport with Soren and hence they were taken good care of by the CM at a personal level. “Soren used his relationship with them to tame Pande, who had asked the Congress MLAs not to meet him in personal capacity and without approval of the AICC,” he added.

The JMM-led dispensation has already annoyed the Congress by raking up the 1932-khatiyan issue for identification of the natives of the state and removing popularly spoken languages like Maithili, Bhojpuri and Magahi from the state’s language list. Congress also banks hugely on those having their roots in Bihar and use these languages for communication in areas bordering the state and other towns like Dhanbad and Bokaro. By removing these languages from the districts’ list, Soren made it sure that those speaking the Bihari languages are not qualified for jobs in the districts.

Soren resorted to divide and rule policy with the Congress, as he sought to buy some time to settle the simmering discontent within his own party and family. Senior JMM MLAs like Stephan Marandi; Nalin Soren; Lobin Hembrom and Sita Soren, widow of eldest son of JMM chief Shibu Soren; along with Dipak Birua are unhappy with the CM’s style of functioning. “Bureaucrats and Soren’s personal staff are calling the shots in the CMO, while senior leaders are left to fend for themselves,” said Hembrom.

Hemant, who is facing the heat from the Jharkhand High Court for the award of a mining lease in his name in contravention to the laid down norms, is besieged with problems at home. “His bhabhi, Durga Soren’s widow, has formed Durga Soren Sena to launch her daughters in politics, much to the discomfiture of the CM. Hemant’s younger brother, Basant, who used to accompany with the CM and manage finances for the party, has sought divorce with his wife and often visit to Mumbai for reasons known to him only.

“In the given situation, Soren has taken recourse to the best way to bring Congress under check until he resolved the issues confronting his own organisation,” said a former professor of Ranchi University VP Sharan.

At present, JMM has support of 30 MLAs and the Congress enjoys support of 17 legislators in the house of 81 seats. The RJD, NCP and the CPI(ML) has one MLA each in the assembly, which together brings the ruling coalition’s strength to 50. However, if the all the disgruntled MLAs, which are around a dozen, decide to skip any crucial proceeding of the assembly, the JMM-led dispensation is sure to bite the dust.

Chandrabindu
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