Given Jharkhand’s predilection for turning out Chief Ministers faster than an assembly line on speed, the life of the Arjun Munda government was always going to be something of a teaser-trailer.
Given Jharkhand’s predilection for turning out Chief Ministers faster than an assembly line on speed, the life of the Arjun Munda government was always going to be something of a teaser-trailer. The question was when rather than if the regime would go, and the inevitable happened after the Shibu Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha broke its arrangement with the Bharatiya Janata Party citing breach of trust by its partner. Just how the Munda government came about is itself a riveting story full of jarring twists and turns that have now become the State’s leitmotif. Indeed, for a tiny State with a short history — it was born to enormous expectations in 2000 — Jharkhand has shown a rather robust appetite for dubious records. Consider the achievements: eight governments in 12 years including one that lasted all of 11 days; an Independent MLA wheeling and dealing his way to the chief ministership only to end up in jail for amassing unbelievable wealth; one Chief Minister exiting for not being able to win his own Assembly seat; and two spells of President’s Rule. The BJP-JMM pact was doomed from the start, not least because of the ideological divergence between the two parties, one wedded to Hindutva and the other a product of a long-fought tribal movement implacably opposed to the cultural constructs of Hindutva. There was also the running rivalry between Mr. Munda, who left the JMM for the BJP in 2000, and Mr. Soren. Both men have done three stints as Chief Minister.
When the BJP and the JMM entered into an alliance following the fractured election verdict of 2009, the partners apparently agreed that they would take turns at running the State government. Accordingly, Mr. Soren became Chief Minister towards the close of 2009. However, the JMM was never comfortable in the alliance, and six months into its relationship with the BJP, it voted with the UPA government in the Lok Sabha on a series of cut motions. An offended BJP pulled the plug on Mr. Soren, who, in a placatory gesture, offered the Chief Minister’s seat to Mr. Munda. The new point of conflict is around the presumed agreement to share governance responsibilities. Mr. Munda, who was shortly to complete his half of the term, denies there was any such agreement while a miffed Mr. Soren insists this is a betrayal. With one more discredited regime gone, the field is wide open for the Congress to try and cobble up an arrangement with its erstwhile partner. Whether or not a new government gets formed, one thing is for sure: the script never fails in Jharkhand whose tragedy has been that though it was carved out of Bihar to end its endemic deprivation, it has become hostage to unending political brinkmanship.