Momentary bliss aside, the formation of a new government under Shibu Soren on December 30 may not actually pose an outright advantage to anyone in the State.
This is Mr. Soren’s third shy at power — the first two were too brief for comfort — and he must fervently hope that destiny does not once again interrupt his long cherished dream of ruling the State.
Indeed, it is a reflection on Mr. Soren’s desperation that he has breached the ideological divide to join hands with his principal rival in Jharkhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Yet the arrangement is inherently unstable. In the earlier House, the BJP had 30 seats to the JMM’s 17. Today they have 18 seats each, which is certain to cause pressures at different levels.
The BJP’s primary objective in pushing for a deal with the JMM chief is to recover lost ground and regain the pivotal position it has held in the region right from the days of undivided Bihar. The strength of the BJP was a factor that led to instability in Jharkhand as the other outfits failed to sew up a stable coalition. The BJP, on the other hand, was stymied by its inability to woo the regional forces. Between them, the BJP and JD(U) had a combined strength of 36 which was below the half way mark of 41.
Till now, the BJP and the JMM had formed the two opposing blocs of Jharkhand’s politics. The others, including the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, were essentially bit players who only contributed to the perennial instability.
Keeping Congress at bay
Today, this logic has been turned on its head with the unlikely partners deciding to share space in government. But conflict is written into this script. The BJP cannot and will not play second fiddle to Mr. Soren. Indeed, its decision to support Mr. Soren can at best be a short-term strategy to keep the Congress at bay and to seize Jharkhand as a consolation prize at a time it has been dogged by electoral reverses, starting with the defeat in the Lok Sabha election. Mr. Soren, in turn, will be conscious of the fact that the JMM and the BJP command equal number of seats in the Assembly.
More importantly, by joining hands, the JMM and the BJP have unwittingly projected the Congress and its ally, the JVM of Babulal Marandi, as the main opposition in the State, which ought to go to the eventual benefit of the latter alliance. Temporarily, of course, the BJP can seek comfort in having been able to add a new ally to the NDA.
On the flip side, this is the first time after the Lok Sabha election that the Congress has been embarrassed by one of its supporters. Though the JMM is still to withdraw support to the UPA government at the Centre, it is now effectively part of the rival camp.
Even as Mr. Soren prays for an uninterrupted third term, the Congress and the JVM will surely hope that tensions between the ruling partners in Ranchi will enable their own emergence as the new force in the State.