A Repeat Of Maharashtra For Congress In Jharkhand?

by Nishtha Anushree - Jul 3, 2022 08:41 AM +05:30 IST
A Repeat Of Maharashtra For Congress In Jharkhand?Sonia Gandhi and Hemant Soren

Congress may face a situation in Jharkhand similar to what it faced in Maharashtra.

It all started with the Rajya Sabha elections: The JMM unilaterally named its senior functionary Mahua Majhi as its candidate. It ignored Sonia Gandhi’s request to field a common candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat.

Fissures over the presidential election: The JMM has, to date, not announced its support for the joint opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha.

  • Despite being in Delhi, Hemant Soren, the JMM's working president, did not attend Sinha's nomination filing event.

  • Congress tried convincing the JMM by saying that Sinha is, for all practical purposes, from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand while Murmu is from Odisha, but their efforts are most likely to go in vain.

The JMM to support Murmu? The JMM is a tribal party and Murmu is a tribal that has put the party in a fix.

  • JMM leaders fear that if they support Sinha, the BJP can accuse them of hypocrisy and being anti-tribal.

  • Hemant Soren’s father, Shibu Soren, will take a final decision and may ultimately leave it to individual MLAs and MPs belonging to his party to "vote according to their conscience."

Soren with Shah: Jharkhand Congress leaders suspect that Soren met Amit Shah to request a reprieve from impending probes by central agencies.

  • Soren is under the scanner of the ECI, which is probing an allegation that he held an office of profit at the time of his election to the state assembly.

  • Soren has also been accused of wrongdoings in the grant of mining leases and is alleged to have favoured his wife while allocating land in an industrial park.

An 'understanding': It is suspected that Shah and Soren have 'cut a deal' so that central agencies go slow on their probes into Soren’s wrongdoings.

  • This deal may involve the JMM eventually breaking away from the UPA and continuing to be in power in alliance with the BJP or with outside support from the BJP.

  • The JMM may also ultimately support the NDA candidate Murmu.

Tribals matter: The JMM owes its victory in the 2019 assembly polls to the tribals — the JMM-Congress alliance won 25 of the 28 seats in the tribal belt at that time.

  • The BJP’s poor show was attributed to its alienation of tribals, but its selection of Murmu is perceived as a masterstroke.

  • Soren’s involvement in the mining mess is already alienating tribals. Hence, JMM would not want to invite more trouble.

Congress disappointed: Congress leaders complain that the JMM has not shown due respect to Congress ministers and legislators.

  • A section of Congress leaders, including a few MLAs, are in favour of withdrawing from the government and extending only outside support.

  • But the four Congress ministers in the cabinet are unwilling to give up their offices and the accompanying perks. This has caused fissures within the Congress as well.

The JMM not too happy: Many in the JMM feel that their party has not gained anything by remaining in alliance with the Congress, especially since the 'grand old party' is on a steep decline.

Alliance with the BJP makes much more sense to a few JMM leaders as there’s no chance of the Congress gaining lost ground in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Bottom line: The JMM’s refusal to declare support for Sinha can be the first step towards the party distancing itself from the Congress. The BJP, which wants to further marginalise Congress, will be happy if the JMM ditches the UPA.

Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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