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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 47, Dated 24 Nov 2012

    An Alliance in Trouble

    The JMM’s demand to have its man as CM has put its coalition with the BJP on shaky ground, says Soumik Mukherjee

    Uneasy Partners JMM’s Shibu Soren with Jharkhand CM Arjun Munda

    Photo: Rajesh Kumar

    A ROW over the rotation of the chief minister’s post has brought the coalition government in Jharkhand to a crossroads from where the ruling alliance between the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the BJP looks fragile. Citing an agreement inked before the formation of the coalition government in 2010, the JMM led by former CM Shibu Soren has demanded the CM’s seat and set 10 January as the deadline.

    Though the party has not yet declared with whom it had struck the deal, Soren told the press in Dumka last week, “It will be revealed in the right place at the right time.” He minced no words and said, “Arjun Munda better be prepared to hand over the CM’s seat.”

    Of the 82 seats in the Jharkhand Assembly, the BJP and the JMM have 18 each, while the Congress has 13.

    Of late, the discontent with the BJP has been quite palpable within the JMM. At a party conference in August, JMM members unanimously criticised the Arjun Munda-led government. “It looks like there is no governance in the state,” JMM MLA Simon Marandi told the media.

    Political analysts believe the recent incidents of tribal unrest over land acquisition for development projects has led the JMM, which has always depended on tribal votes, to play up its differences with the BJP.

    The BJP, however, has taken a strong stand against the “unjust demand” by its principal ally in Jharkhand. “There has been no such agreement,” says Yashwant Sinha, a BJP MP from Jharkhand. Accusing the JMM of exploiting the alliance, he said, “Ever since the coalition was formed, they have been disrupting the government’s functioning.”

    This tiff between the ruling allies before the 2014 General Election has created a sudden opportunity for the Congress. That the Congress was unwilling to miss the chance was evident in its initial reaction to news of the turmoil. It called the JMM “a natural ally”, despite having blamed it earlier for poor development in the state, and hinted at a possible alliance if the latter snapped its ties with the BJP. “We are in constant touch with the JMM, but as long as they are in the ruling alliance, there will be no talks,” said Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Balmuchu, who is also the Congress spokesperson in Jharkhand.

    Sources in the JMM confirmed that in case the party’s demands are not met, it will not hesitate to opt for an early election. “We have given a deadline. The government must agree with our terms, otherwise we will go in for other democratic processes,” says Supriyo Bhattacharya, a JMM leader.

    The tiff between the ruling allies has created a sudden opportunity for the Congress

    Aware that the recent chain of events will be a deciding factor in the next General Election as well as the Assembly election, both the JMM and the Congress are not writing each other off. In case of an early election, the Congress would be the JMM’s only possible ally.

    Another player in Jharkhand’s political scene is the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) led by Deputy CM Sudesh Mahato, which holds six Assembly seats and supports the ruling alliance. “It is a rising force. In the Hatia by-election in June, AJSU candidate Naveen Jaiswal defeated heavyweight BJP and Congress candidates by a fair margin,” says a political observer. So far, the AJSU has refrained from taking sides in the war of words between the JMM and the BJP.

    As of now, it looks like neither party is willing to cede a single inch of ground. “If the JMM wants to leave the government and ally with the Congress, they can go ahead and do it. We are not giving in to their demands,” asserts Yashwant Sinha. If it’s a staring contest between the JMM and the BJP, then it’s time to see who blinks first.

    Soumik Mukherjee is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 47, Dated 24 Nov 2012



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