BJP caught in tribal-non-tribal J`khand CM debate

Former Chief Minister Arjun Munda, Deputy Chief Minister Raghubar Das and former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha are the front-runners for the post of Jharkhand Chief Minister.

Last Updated: May 09, 2010, 21:08 PM IST

New Delhi: Former Chief Minister Arjun Munda,
Deputy Chief Minister Raghubar Das and former Union Finance
Minister Yashwant Sinha are the front-runners for the post of
Jharkhand Chief Minister, a decision on which is likely to be
taken by the BJP Parliamentary Board tomorrow.

The BJP central leadership, which was said to be keen on
having a non-tribal chief minister in Jharkhand, may have to
settle for a tribal face to keep intact its support base as
well as its flock of MLAs together.

Nine of the 18 BJP MLAs are tribals and are likely to
support Munda. However, many in the BJP Parliamentary Board
may not favour Munda as he is considered close to former party
president Rajnath Singh, party sources said.

Jharkhand, formed in 2000, has never had a non-tribal
chief minister. 32 per cent of the population in the state is
tribal while 15 per cent are Muslims.

The Shibu Soren-led Jharkhand government was hit by a
crisis after BJP decided to withdraw support on April 28 after
the JMM leader voted against the opposition-sponsored cut
motions in the Lok Sabha. However, the BJP kept the decision
on hold after Shibu`s son Hemant Soren wrote to the party
leadership expressing support for a BJP-led government.

A proposal by JMM for a rotational chief ministership was
rejected by the BJP. Both the BJP and the JMM are against the
state coming under a spell of President`s Rule fearing this
may break their ranks.

Though a section within BJP central leadership is keen
that Yashwant Sinha become the Chief Minister, it does not
want to antagonise the tribal voters who have started drifting
towards JMM and Babulal Marandi`s JVM-P.

BJP has already pledged two extra ministerial berths to
JMM -- taking their number to five in the cabinet -- during
the recent negotiations leaving just three seats for the
party. At least one of these will have to go to a tribal MLA
but this may not be enough.

Another concern in BJP and RSS is the reported increase
in the number of Christian converts, the sources said. RSS was
pressuring BJP to form a government in Jharkhand to check this
trend, they said.

A section of the BJP Central leadership is rooting for
Sinha, a former bureaucrat who has served as Finance Minister
and External Affairs Minister at the Centre, according to the
sources. They think he can prove to be a good chief minister
in the tribal state, known for unstable governments and lack
of development.

Party president Nitin Gadkari and senior leader L K
Advani favour Sinha, party sources said.

A dark horse in this race is Deputy Chief Minister
Raghubar Das. An important section within BJP Central unit,
comprising leaders from Jharkhand and Bihar, is reportedly
lobbying for Das, saying the low-profile leader would be good
for the state.

PTI