Jharkhand will be a test of the non-BJP alliance
After a well-fought election campaign, Hemant Soren took over as Jharkhand’s new chief minister on Sunday, in the presence of senior leaders from Opposition parties nationally. Mr Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, along with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, scored an impressive victory in the assembly polls, ending the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) reign of five years. But winning may well have been the easier part.
Mr Soren’s first challenge will to be keep the coalition together, and manage the allies’ demands. The non-BJP parties are consolidating in order to challenge the BJP, but this has had mixed results. In Karnataka, for instance, the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government collapsed after internal feuds. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress have come together, but it is too early to judge their success. For Mr Soren, the advantage is that all non-BJP formations recognise the value in uniting. Successfully running such governments is essential to show the viability of non-BJP coalitions.
But the second challenge is deeper. Mr Soren’s party made wide-ranging promises in the run up to the elections — jobs for locals, reservations in tenders, raising the minimum support price for paddy, allowances for women and the unemployed, and a land protection law, among others. He will have to deliver on welfare promises, while also ensuring that the state maintains a degree of fiscal discipline; he will have to protect tribal rights, yet ensure that they benefit from development and industrialisation. It is, finally, in being able to provide an alternative governance model that the non-BJP parties can claim to be distinctive.