Hemant Soren – The new `Guruji` of Jharkhand

Manisha Singh

Life has surely turned a full circle for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. In 2006, JMM chief Shibu Soren, popularly known as `Guruji`, was unceremoniously thrown out of the Congress-led UPA government after he was found guilty in a twelve-year-old case involving the kidnapping and murder of his former personal secretary Shashi Nath Jha. It was said that Jha`s knowledge of the reported deal between the Congress and the JMM to save the then Narasimha Rao government during the July 1993 no-confidence motion was the reason why he was killed.

Notably, this was the first case of a Union Minister in the Central Cabinet being found guilty of involvement in a murder. Thus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had no choice but to ask Soren to resign as the Coal Minister.

That was then. Now, seven years down the line, the Congress and the JMM are back together as partners in Jharkhand and have formed the government in a state which was under President`s rule since January 18 after Arjun Munda-led BJP government collapsed following the withdrawal of support by JMM on January 8.

And the man at the helm of affairs, the new Chief Minister of tribal-dominated state is none other than the son of Shibu Soren – Hemant Soren – or shall we say the new `Guruji` of Jharkhand.

The bespectacled mechanical engineer from the Birla Institute of Technology did not enter politics immediately after completing his studies. In fact he worked in engineering firms before entering politics. However, his first experience in the field of politics was not so great – he lost the first elections that he contested in 2005. So, he became a Member of Parliament by entering the Rajya Sabha.

He became the face of his party after his elder brother Durga died in 2009. Hemant Soren, who was the Deputy CM of Jharkhand in the Arjun Munda government, has often been blamed by the BJP for creating instability in the state because of his personal ambitions.

The BJP, JMM, AJSU and JD(U) had formed the government in Jharkhand on September 11, 2010. But the BJP-led government collapsed when the JMM withdrew support, blaming Arjun Munda for going back on his words of having a rotational leadership in the state. Munda, in a written reply to the JMM in January this year, had said that there was no agreement between them on `rotation of power` after 28 months in office.

Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said on record – "Arjun Munda government was brought down for various strange reasons in strange circumstances because Hemant Soren wanted to quickly become the chief minister of Jharkhand. And that`s exactly what the Congress party has conceded."

The Congress, which was averse to government-formation in Jharkhand initially, gave in to the demands of its MLAs primarily with an eye on 2014 Lok Sabha polls. With allies leaving the UPA government one after another, the grand old party is in desperate need of friends to counter Bhartiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi. Also, the Congress will need support of as many as it can get in Parliament to get the Food Bill passed, which it is hoping to be a game-changer in 2014.

So, as part of the understanding reached between the Congress and the JMM, Hemant Soren has been appointed the CM of the state and in lieu of that the JMM would be conceding ten seats to the Congress in the next Lok Sabha polls. Out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, Congress at present has only one seat – that of Subodh Kant Sahay, while the JMM has two members. The last General Elections were fought by both of them separately.

On the other hand, when both the parties fought 2004 Lok Sabha polls in alliance, Congress had won six seats and JMM four.

Anyway, now that Hemant Soren is in the hot seat in Jharkhand, there is no doubt that the task is cut out for him. He will be under the radar for various reasons – can he provide stability to a state which has seen eight governments in twelve years? Also, can he tackle the menace of Naxalism in the state effectively? The recent killing of Pakur SP, along with five other policemen, is a grim reminder of the fact that Jharkhand is as vulnerable to Maoists attack as the other twelve states where Naxal rebels have considerable influence.

Plus, can Hemant re-capture the ground that JMM has lost to other parties? There have been allegations of corruption and non-governance against JMM and Shibu Soren in the past, which have been used by other parties as electoral issues.

Also, can junior Soren address the concerns of the majority of the tribal population in the state who feel left out as far as sharing of natural resources are concerned. The BJP has already pronounced that the JMM-Congress government in Jharkhand will be one of the most corrupt. Given the track record of his father, Shibu Soren, probably not many would have great hopes from Hemant. Many would also say that all that Shibu wanted was to see his son ascend the throne of the state, where he started his political career. However, as goes a clichéd adage – only time will tell as to how Hemant fares after becoming the CM. For now, he would probably be telling himself – I have finally arrived.

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