A five-month wonder has unravelled in Jharkhand. The abrupt end to the Bharatiya Janata Party's alliance of convenience with the Shibu Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was not entirely unexpected: uncertainty was inherent in the arrangement. The BJP withdrew support to the coalition government a day after Mr. Soren, a Member of Parliament, went with the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha by voting against Opposition-sponsored cut motions. For the BJP, the opportunistic experiment had soured; it promptly accused him of betrayal. The country then witnessed the unedifying spectacle of Mr. Soren desperately seeking to cling to his post, first, by extending new promises to the BJP, only to retract, and then by making overtures to the Congress. At one point, the Congress signalled that it was not averse to helping the JMM form a new government. Thankfully, nothing came of this. When an isolated Mr. Soren finally resigned ahead of a trust vote in the Assembly that he was guaranteed to lose, the wheel has come full circle. President's Rule has been imposed but while the Assembly remains in suspended animation, intense horse-trading seems to be in prospect.

The December 2009 Assembly elections produced a fragmented verdict, but in its anxiety to keep the Congress out of power the BJP rushed into the alliance with the JMM. Sheer greed for power marked the manoeuvring and the manipulation that led to that deal. The politics of opportunism is turning out to be the bane of Jharkhand, a State that is only a decade old. There are many tasks ahead for the mineral-rich, tribal-majority State that is facing the challenges of underdevelopment even as the Maoist insurgency is raging. Panchayat elections in the region were last held in 1977. The official machinery needs to show commitment and vigour in the implementation of livelihood support programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. A huge amount of basic work needs to be done in the social and infrastructure sectors. It would be politically and morally indefensible to treat Jharkhand as a basket case. Creative ways must be found to end the political instability that has paralysed governance. The State Assembly is but five months old. It is up to the major political parties to show sagacity and work out a bipartisan consensus to put a viable democratic government in place. A prolonged spell of President's Rule is clearly not the way forward.

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