In a major blow to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in Jharkhand, Chief Minister Shibu Soren lost the Tamar by-election in Ranchi district four-and-a-half months after he took charge of the state. The by-election was held on January 5.
Soren lost to the Jharkhand Party’s Gopal Krishna Patar, also known as Raja Peter — a local Robin Hood — by nearly 9,000 votes.
Soren may have to step down from his post within the next two months. The constitutional deadline of six months for election to the assembly after being sworn in as chief minister expires on February 26.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader had passed the floor test with the help of the Congress and RJD after the UPA-backed Madhu Koda resigned as chief minister to enable Soren to take over.
“I was made chief minister in August 2007 following a decision of UPA leaders. Now it is up to them to decide on the issue. I am ready to resign if the UPA people ask me to,” Soren told the Hindustan Times.
Giving reasons for his defeat, the JMM leader said, “A majority of electors in Tamar still live in forest areas. They are illiterate. They couldn’t understand the actual meaning of this by-election.”
He also regretted not having had enough time to undertake development work. “Of the four months, one month went in the assembly while another month was spent in by-election related work. I got just two months to perform. I regret that I could not do too much for the poor (people) of this state,” Soren said.
Soren added that he was not going to float or recommend the name of any person as the next chief minister from the UPA camp.
“All these issues will be decided by UPA seniors in consultation with the state leaders,” he said.
The Tamar seat fell vacant after the killing of Janata Dal (United) MLA Ramesh Singh Munda, who was gunned down last July by suspected Maoists.
A section of the JMM has suggested offering the chief minister’s post to Soren’s wife Rupi Soren for a few months. The Congress, however, neither commented on the next course of action by the UPA nor offered reasons for the CM’s defeat.
The BJP, on the other hand, demanded Soren’s resignation and imposition of President’s Rule in the state. “The only option left is imposing President’s Rule. Then elections should be conducted to seek the people’s mandate. The people of Jharkhand do not want an experiment,” said Arjun Munda, former chief minister and BJP leader.