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JMM in void, tussle to lead party

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is caught in an unprecedented crisis, struggling to answer who will lead it in coming time.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 13:34 IST

With Shibu Soren sentenced to life for murder, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is caught in an unprecedented crisis, struggling to answer who will lead it in the times to come.

A quiet but undisguised fight has broken out in the three decades old party, between the kin of the jailed tribal leader and a faction led by Mahtos, who are classified as a "backward community".

JMM leaders are unable to believe that a man who led the struggle for a separate Jharkhand could be sent to jail, not to talk of undergoing life imprisonment.

Soren had been leading the party since it was formed in 1972 and was widely known as 'Guruji'. He saw many ups and down but every time succeeded in bringing the party back on the mainstream of the politics.

The question now is: who will lead the party in his absence?

According to JMM insiders, the second rung leaders are trying to take over the leadership. Soren's sons Durga and Hemant are also in the race but not many will accept them.

Hectic lobbying is also on to know who will become a minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet in place of Soren.

The JMM is now divided in two. One group is dominantly tribal while the second is mainly made up of Mahtos.

Matho leaders are opposed to Soren's sons, saying they neither have the political vision nor the seniority to command respect.

Staunch supporters of Soren are planning to elevate Rupi Soren, the jailed leader's wife, as party president. She is no different from Rabari Devi, the wife of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad when he made her the chief minister of Bihar.

The Mathos - Jamshedpur Lok Sabha MP Sunil Mahto, Jharkhand Deputy Chief Minister Sudhir Mahto, another Lok Sabha MP Teklal Mahto - are vying for the top post.

Former JMM leader Stephen Marandi, who quit the party following differences with Soren last year, is trying to return - only if he gets charge of JMM.

Political experts feel that in the absence of Guruji, it would be difficult for the party to even keep the flock together.

Soren still enjoys a huge stature in the state, notwithstanding the criminal tag he now has. He is considered the only mass leader of Jharkhand. No other leader of any political party has a mass appeal matching Soren's.

"Either Guruji should announce a successor from jail or the party will witness a tussle for leadership," a JMM source said. "Infighting will not be good for the party."