Munda caught between falling buildings and grumbling leaders

Jharkhand`s Chief Minister Arjun Munda is facing a tough time in the state and within his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the ongoing drive for demolition of illegal constructions.

Updated: Apr 20, 2011, 12:37 PM IST

Ranchi: Jharkhand`s Chief Minister Arjun Munda is facing a tough time in the state and within his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the ongoing drive for demolition of illegal constructions.

With a large section of BJP leaders strongly opposing the demolition under way in several cities, Munda finds himself caught in a dilemma.

Over 4,200 illegal structures have been demolished in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Bokaro and other districts in the last one month on the directive of the Jharkhand High Court.

The drive has left more than 100,000 people homeless. It could render even more homeless.

Three people, two in Ranchi and one in Dhanbad, have died of shock after they were served notice.

Senior BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha, the Lok sabha member from Hazaribagh, CP Singh, assembly speaker and Ranchi legislator, and Raghubar Das, the party`s former state president, have demanded that the demolition drive be halted immediately.

Sinha went on an indefinite strike against the demolition, much to the embarrassment of the Chief Minister. He ended the strike Monday after the government decided to approach the court for a stay on the demolition.

"The cabinet has decided to form a three- member committee to prepare a report how to help the poor families affected by the demolition drive. It also decided to file a modification petition in the court seeking one month`s time," Cabinet Secretary Aditya Swaroop said Monday.

The three-member committee includes the development commissioner, the land and revenue secretary and the urban development secretary.

However, with tens of thousands already homeless, the harm is already done, feel many BJP leaders.

Munda came under severe criticism when he went on a week-long visit to Germany early April even as thousands of people were thrown out of their homes.

A senior BJP leader said Munda`s visit was like Emperor Nero playing fiddle while Rome burnt.

BJP leaders fear the party would face complete rout in the polls if the demolition drive was not stopped immediately.

The worst affected districts are Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Bokaro, Dhanbad.

The demolition drive is currently focussed in the urban areas, where the BJP has its strong presence.

"Munda seems to have taken a contract to end the BJP`s existence in Jharkhand. Our party legislators and Lok Sabha members are upset. His silence on the issue has created a very bad situation for the party in the state," a senior party leader said.

Assembly Speaker Singh has been more vocal and has openly come out against own party government.

"Any party or government exists for the people. If there are no people to support it, then how can a party exist? The demolition has been executed in the most inhuman way and must be stopped immediately" he had told reporters.

The BJP`s concern is not out of context.

The party, which had won 33 and 30 seats in 2000 and 2005 assembly polls, saw it falling to 18 in the 2009 Assembly poll.

Munda himself just about managed to win the Kharsawa Assembly poll held in February.

In Jharkhand the BJP is supported by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) and others.

The urban development ministry is held by Heman Soren, son of JMM chief Shibu Soren.

The BJP leaders say that the impact of the demolition will be far-reaching on the party in comparison to the JMM.

The majority of JMM voters are rural people and so the party will face only a little impact due to demolition in the urban areas.