When Jharkhand was separated from Bihar and became a new state in 2000, the people of the tribal-dominated state had hoped for a sharp improvement in the quality of governance. But in the last 12 years, governance, forget its quality, has been a casualty in the state since all that political parties, mainly the BJP and JMM, have done is play musical chairs with power, proving the oft-repeated theory 'small states are better governed' totally wrong. From the time of its inception, Jharkhand has seen eight governments and two spells of President's Rule. If we leave out the first chief minister - Babulal Marandi - the reins of power have gone back and forth between JMM president Shibu Soren and the BJP's Arjun Munda; the two have been dethroned thrice by each other.
The latest round of skirmishes between the two tribal leaders is once again about who will occupy the CM's chair. While Mr Soren alleges that there was a power-sharing arrangement between the two, and it is time for Mr Munda to honour it, the latter has denied this. In any case, if there is a written agreement between the two parties on power-sharing, the JMM should present it. But there is another reason why the JMM is so keen to get rid of Mr Munda/the BJP. In the last few years, the All Jharkhand Students' Union (AJSU), which has six MLAs, has eaten into the JMM territory and though it has fewer seats than the JMM (18), the Munda government treated it on a par with Mr Soren's party. In fact, important (read: cash rich) ministries like rural development were with the AJSU, which now says that it wants fresh polls.
JMM leaders, at the time of going to press, were camping in Delhi, hoping to meet the Congress leadership and get its support to stake a claim to the chair. But the Congress would do well not to jump into the fray now, especially at a time when corruption is a big issue and any opportunism on its part is not likely to go down well with the electorate in 2014.