The UPA stood deeply divided and even lurched precariously on the brink in Jharkhand over JMM chief Shibu Soren's demand to be made chief minister of the tribal state.
In the political rigmarole building up over the state, Soren on Tuesday threatened to withdraw support to the state government unless incumbent Madhu Koda (an independent) stepped down in his favour. But Delhi leaders with a stake in the state and the region took divergent stands on the issue.
LJP's Ram Vilas Paswan, who does not have a single MLA in Jharkhand, batted in Soren's favour. “If an independent CM can rule for over one and a half year, what is the problem if Soren gets the chair for the remaining period…He is a grass roots leader,'' he said. His stand is seen as a move to dilute his Bihar rival and RJD chief Lalu Yadav's influence in Jharkhand.
Lalu, however, warned that any change of guard would pave the way for President's Rule—a scenario that perhaps even the state Congress may not be averse to. “I have no objection. But all depends on independent MLAs… A number of them have said that they are against Soren….What if there is a loss instead of gain?” Lalu told reporters.
The stand of the former Bihar CM, who had played a crucial role in installing Koda, is seen as part of his effort to maintain his profile in the tribal state and his clout over independents and ensure that he not haunted by the fodder scam cases.
Just as the RJD leader would try to push his stand, he would also come under pressure from the Congress that owes the victory of trust vote to the JMM's backing. Taking a middle path, AICC general secretary Ajay Maken, who had to step back on the party's oust-Koda agitation earlier this year under Lalu's pressure, on Tuesday said that the Congress would support Soren as CM if he can form a government.
Soren's support in the trust vote adversely impacted the Congress-RJD relationship. With Lalu's stakes in Jharkhand high, the Congress could use the issue against the RJD during seat sharing negotiations for next year's Lok Sabha polls.
The fissures that showed up in the state indicated that installing Soren may not be an easy task. In Ranchi, Koda said he has not received any hint from the Central leadership to quit. And a section of independents—who provide numerical majority to the state government—made their opposition to Soren-as-CM clear..
On Tuesday, Soren staked his claim for the post, saying: ``The decision to make me CM was taken long back but it is getting delayed. We decided that if Koda does not resign now we will withdraw support to his government,'' the JMM leader said after meeting Jharkhand leaders, including Congress's Subodh Kant Sahay and Furqan Ansari. He said the UPA high command has directed Koda to resign. “I will take oath as new CM as soon as he resigns,” he added, refusing to put a time frame to it.
(inputs from Srinand Jha)