Rift widens in ruling alliance in J’khand, Cong MLAs told not to meet CM - Hindustan Times

Rift widens in ruling alliance in J’khand, Cong MLAs told not to meet CM

By, Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Apr 05, 2022 01:56 AM IST

The central leadership of Congress has asked party legislators not to meet chief minister Hemant Soren for at least next two months since their grievances have remained unattended, party leaders said.

In a sign of the widening rift between Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Congress, the two major constituents of the three-party ruling alliance in Jharkhand, the central leadership of Congress has asked party legislators not to meet chief minister Hemant Soren for at least next two months since their grievances have remained unattended, party leaders said.

Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren with Congress president t Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. (ANI)
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren with Congress president t Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. (ANI)

The direction came during in the Congress legislature party meeting chaired by All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of Jharkhand, Avinash Pande, here on April 1. At least three Congress legislators confirmed the development. Sources said a few legislators opposed the idea as “impractical”, but Pande said “there is a need to see how things go after two months”.

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Jharkhand is the only state where Congress shares power, apart from running governments on its own in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“The direction is kind of a double-edged sword, though it is true that Congress legislators feel left out in the government and are not getting adequate due. Half of the tenure of this government is over, but we haven’t been able to formalise a common minimum programme and a coordination committee. There is one vacancy in the cabinet that has not been filled. Moreover, not a single post in over two dozen boards, corporations and commissions has been filled despite repeated requests. However, the strong posturing by the in-charge could further strain the relationship among the allies.” said a senior party legislator.

Jharkhand Congress president Rajesh Thakur refused to comment. Congress legislature party (CLP) leader and rural development minister Alamgir Alam could not be contacted for his comment.

When contacted, Pande said he spoke about a “code of conduct” for the party legislators. “As the in-charge, it’s my responsibility to be aware of their grievances and about how they are being addressed in their own government. The MLAs often complain that their grievances are not being met. So I have asked them that they could meet the CM along with the CLP and the state Congress president. Then it will easier to get their grievances resolved,” said Pande.

The Congress leader, however, underlined he was “seriously concerned” over the delay in formalisation of the CMP and the coordination committee. “I have been holding meetings with the party cadre since I took over. After the three-day Chintan Shivir in Giridih, I had handed over a list to the CM, including the suggestion to form the CMP and the coordination committee, on March 7. However, I can say as much that I am seriously concerned about the delay on that front. As a lead partner, the onus lies on the JMM leadership to make a move,” Pande said.

Asked if he has sought an appointment with the CM over the issue as he would be in the state soon, Pande said there was no need to seek an appointment “just for a cup of tea”. “I gave the sense of the party in writing. Now, it is up to them to bring on table a formula and discuss it with us and finalise it. I will be in the state on a 10-day trip soon for my Samwad programmes across all 24 districts with focus to strengthen the organisation for 2024 general elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, principal general secretary of the JMM, Supriyo Bhattacharya, wondered if there was a need to have a “cosmetic and ornamental” CMP and coordination committee when a practical mechanism already exists.

“Firstly, most features of the pre-poll manifesto of the two parties are almost similar. Besides the four cabinet ministers of the Congress, the CM is always accessible to all legislators. But still if the Congress wants a cosmetic and ornamental CMP and coordination committee it could be done, but not through such pressures. Moreover, the Congress should evaluate its position across the country after the assembly elections results on March 10,” he said.

The pre-poll alliance of JMM-Congress-RJD won 47 seats in the the 81-member Jharkhand assembly in December 2019 polls. While JMM is the lead partner with 30 MLAs, Congress has 16 legislators. RJD has a lone member, who is also the part of the Hemant cabinet.

However, reports of friction among the two major constituents have surfaced intermittently over the past 28 months. It only increased after former Congress in-charge of Jharkhand, RPN Singh, joined the BJP, with a section of Congress leaders openly demanding reversal of key decisions taken by Singh, including the choice of ministers in the Soren cabinet and appointment of new state unit president to replace Rameshwar Oraon.

Some of the decisions regarding inclusion and exclusion of a few languages in the state’s employment policy and delay in granting 27 per cent reservation to OBCs also strained relations among the alliance partners.

During the three-day Chintan Shivir chaired by Pande in February, at least two party legislators, health minister Banna Gupta and Deepika Pandey Singh, alleged that JMM under Soren was trying to eat into the core support base of Congress through his decisions.

Last week, three former spokespersons of Jharkhand Congress, Alok Dubey, Kishore Shahdeo and Rajesh Gupta, who are considered close to former president and finance minister Rameshwar Oraon, had announced to organise a special meeting of t “grassroots workers” in Ranchi, alleging they were being sidelined by the incumbent state leadership. The three have been demanding removal of state Congress president Rajesh Thakur who was appointed barely few weeks before RPN Singh quit the party.

While Thakur has remained tight-lipped, the meeting was cancelled after Pande took cognisance and summoned them to Delhi last week.

Dubey, however, continues to raise his demand. “I am fighting for grassroots workers. I have written to former president Rahul Gandhi through mail and would hand over the letter to him personally on April 5. I demand that grassroots workers of all constituent partners should be given due share in the government, besides review of some decisions of RPN Singh,” said Dubey.

Pande would be chairing a meeting of all four ministers and around 30 senior party leaders in New Delhi on Tuesday. On March 31, he had held a similar meeting of former presidents of the state unit, youth Congress and the NSUI.

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    Vishal Kant works as an Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He tracks developments in Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi government. Vishal has spent about a decade covering the city politics and governance, besides writing on Delhi’s civic issues, urban transport and infrastructure.

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