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Playing with Jharkhand

The key role in the sordid drama in Jharkhand was played by the independent candidates, who moved the two alliances ? UPA and NDA ? back and forth.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2006 03:09 IST

When Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000, even the most jaundiced observer would have predicted a bright future for the state. Home to the first steel mill in the country in Jamshedpur and one of the largest steel plants in Asia at Bokaro, it had immense  mineral resources and its lush natural wealth was the envy of all. Six years down the line, the hopes have been belied. The primary responsibility for this rests with the state’s political culture, which is more attuned to the destructive politics of bringing down governments than to providing the stability necessary for good governance.

Early last year, following the state assembly elections, Governor Syed Sibte Razi used questionable tactics to foist a short-lived UPA government, headed by  Shibu Soren of the JMM. The key role in the sordid drama was played by independents, who moved the two alliances — the UPA and the NDA — back and forth. Finally, four of the most volatile independent MLAs threw in their lot with the BJP-led NDA and backed a government led by Arjun Munda, in exchange for important ministerial positions. Now they have quit and declared their support for the UPA. This time, the Governor has been more circumspect and has followed convention by allowing Mr Munda seven days to prove his majority on the floor of the assembly. The resignation of four ministers has brought the government into a minority, as it now has only 39 MLAs in a House of 81. But the arithmetic shows that there are 42 members of the Opposition —  the barest minimum to form a government. This does not take into account the built-in intricacies arising from the fractured electoral outcome in 2005, or the volatility of the independent MLAs. The Congress has nine members, the JMM 17 and the RJD seven. They will, therefore, require the support of another nine or 10 Independents to stake their claim.

Already one of the ministers who resigned, Madhu Koda, has staked his claim to head an alternative government, while Union Coal Minister Shibu Soren’s hat can never be far from the ring. Neither alternative looks promising. It would appear that at least for the short term, Jharkhand remains the loser.