It might seem easier waltzing through the complex passageways of a labyrinth than tracking the political processes that have entertained the nation by producing a procession of governments — eight in ten years — in Jharkhand. The State's revolving door has once again deposited the Bharatiya Janata Party's Arjun Munda, who twice before donned the role, in the chief ministerial chair. Mr. Munda is unlikely to know how he got there considering the legion of names thrown up in the course of several rounds of on-again, off-again negotiations between the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the BJP. Shibhu Soren and his son Hemant Soren, not to mention a variety of contenders from within the BJP, all vied for the post before the BJP leadership, recognising Mr. Munda's wider support in the legislature party, settled for him. Yet this might not be the end of the story, judging from Lal Krishna Advani's reported decision to skip the swearing-in-ceremony in a symbolic protest against the flagrantly opportunistic alliance between his party and the JMM.
Originally cast as an ideological opponent of the BJP, the JMM has shown itself capable of plumbing the depths to grab power. Mr. Soren lasted all of 11 days in his first term because he did not have majority backing. His second stint was a prize for extending life-support to the Manmohan Singh Government during the 2008 confidence vote in the Lok Sabha. That ended for the astonishing reason that as Chief Minister he could not win an Assembly election. Following fresh election in 2009, Mr. Soren was back as Chief Minister — this time by a pact with the BJP. The latter was morally bound to renounce power, having won far fewer seats than in 2005. Yet such was the desperation on both sides that the BJP-JMM alliance materialised. It was another matter that Mr. Soren made one more somersault, voting with the United Progressive Alliance Government on the Opposition-sponsored cut motions. Stung to the quick, the BJP withdrew support to its partner only to begin wooing the JMM all over again. Given the State's rocky political history and given the brevity of his own previous tenures, Mr. Munda can make history by just completing his term. Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar to address the mineral-rich tribal region's endemic deprivation. That promise has been tragically betrayed by its self-serving politicians. The Maoist challenge in a State where they have a strong presence will have to be met. The saving grace is that constitutional proprieties have been followed scrupulously this time, with the Union government recommending the revocation of President's Rule as soon as the political situation became clear.