Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren remains the party’s biggest hope against a Narendra Modi-led BJP surge as the state heads for assembly elections this month, although his son Hemant Soren is the party’s young face and Jharkhand’s chief minister.
The 70-year-old, popularly known as Guruji, is seen as a champion of the state’s tribal people, who constitute around 26% of its total population, and is expected to address 300 rallies.
“I will personally be with Guruji during all the 300 meetings. Though he has grown old, he remains our hero,” said JMM spokesperson Binod Pandey.
In his prime, people would wait for hours at election rallies to catch a glimpse of Soren. Some would even come with a fistful of rice or Rs 10 as contribution for his election expenses.
This time, Soren is up against a resurgent BJP under Modi and a Congress desperate to make inroads into the state. Moreover, trusted lieutenants like Simon Marandi and Hemlal Murmu have left the JMM.
But Soren is not new to adversities. He won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls without campaigning for even a single day. Again, in 2014, the Modi wave did not make a dent in Soren’s home turf, Dumka, and he won again.
In his long career, Soren has been charged with many allegations, from taking money to save the Congress government at the Centre in 1993 to the Chirudih massacre of 1974 where 19 people were killed to his private secretary Shashinath Jha’s murder in 1994. Each time, courts acquitted him of all charges.
In a recent public meeting at Shikaripara assembly, Soren said he had given Jharkhand to the people. But will Jharkhand give him what he wants?