Past political animosities often melt away in the context of present political exigencies. Given the fragmented nature of the electoral verdict in Jharkhand, a post-election pact between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was waiting to happen. The BJP wanted to keep the Congress out at any cost, and the JMM wanted itself in, no matter what. All that remained for the two parties to do was to rope in the All Jharkhand Students Union and to decide on the ministerial berths. Since the JMM would not settle for anything less than the post of the chief minister for its leader Shibu Soren, it was decided to have two deputy chief ministers, one from the BJP and the other from AJSU. With all the three parties clear and firm on their minimum demands, not much time was lost in bargaining. Even before the Congress could explore its options, the JMM and the BJP had lined up 44 members on the other side, three more than the required 41 in the 81-member Assembly. Despite making significant gains in the election, the Congress was pushed to the Opposition benches, along with its ally the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik). Given the way the numbers fell in place, Governor K. Sankaranarayanan had little difficulty in inviting Mr. Soren to form the government.
But the manoeuvring and manipulation that Shibu Soren displayed in forging the alliance will not help him in governance. Working together in government is never as easy as joining hands to capture power. In his third term as Chief Minister, Mr. Soren will have to tackle Jharkhand’s chronic underdevelopment and the challenge from the Maoists. Tapping the mineral resources of the State without unsettling tribal populations will be a tough ask. The Scheduled Tribes constitute 28 per cent of the population and the Scheduled Castes 12 per cent. Forests and woodlands occupy about 29 per cent of the geographical area. The economy is dependent on mining and heavy industry, and only 25 per cent of the total area is under cultivation. The new government will have to work hard to improve the social indices of the State. Large sections of the population have been left behind even as Jharkhand was mined for its natural resources. Mr. Soren’s two previous terms were short-lived, the first in 2005 because he did not enjoy majority support in the Assembly, and the second in January 2009 when he could not muster the voter support to win an Assembly seat. If his new term is not to be similarly aborted, Mr. Soren will need more than the single-minded pursuit of power he has displayed so far to see him through. He will have to focus on development without letting the divisive agenda of his coalition partner, the BJP, rear its head.