Monday, September 13, 2010

Power and Politics/ Mail Today, September 13, 2010

POLITICS, they say, is the art of the possible.
Just four months after the two sides went through a messy divorce, the BJP and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha are together again and Arjun Munda was sworn in as chief minister for the third time last Saturday.

That the Congress cried foul, and called it an “ unholy alliance” was something expected, but what came as a surprise were inspired leaks from party bigwigs about the BJP being a house divided on the matter and of L. K. Advani being so miffed that he was planning to give the swearing- in a miss.

If it is true that Advani and other senior leaders at 11, Ashok Road, are upset and angry at the turn of events, that may have a lot to do with the fact that, perhaps for the first time ever, the senior party leaders were absolutely in the dark about the quiet moves that were being made to put a government in place in Ranchi.

The decision was taken by the RSS leadership which had decided a long time ago that the sensitive state, which is both a theatre for conversions and a playing field for Naxalites, cannot be allowed to slip into the hands of ‘ pseudo- secularists’. The RSS, based on inputs from its frontal organisations in the state, had decided that since it were the tribals, whom the JMM claimed to represent, who were the primary targets of conversion, the BJP had no options but to make some compromises for the bigger cause. The RSS believes that only a tribal- dominated government lead by a tribal leader would be able to resist forced conversions.

To recap: Relations between the two parties had turned sour in May when the JMM, which formed the government in alliance with the BJP after the assembly elections in Jharkhand last December threw up a hung assembly, voted in favour of the Manmohan Singh government against the BJP- sponsored cut motions in parliament. An angry BJP withdrew support to the Shibu Soren- led government. The BJPJMM’s has been a love- hate relationship.

When a non bailable warrant was issued against Soren, the coal minister in the UPA government in 2004, the BJP stalled Parliament for days together and even petitioned the then President APJ Abdul Kalam to dismiss the minister. Politics has turned a full circle and not only are the two parties supping once again, even Soren and Arjun Munda, once sworn foes, are now camp mates.

Once the RSS was certain that another government could be formed, it went about it in a very hushed manner. The reason that no more than a handful were privy to the goings- on was because the last time a reunion was attempted, it was sabotaged by elements at Ashoka Road who spread the canard that the party will concede leadership to the JMM. Yashwant Sinha This is humbug, because when efforts were made in July and MLAs sounded out, 13 of the 18 BJP MLAs had said they would support a new government conditional to it being led by Munda.

Yet, for reasons that only the central leadership knows, it propped up Yashwant Sinha, an efficient administrator no doubt, but who is seen in the Jharkhand context as some sort of a cultural misfit.

Evidence of the internal sabotage was strewn all around and the RSS was clearly determined not to let it happen a second time. The entire operation was a well kept secret.

Though the BJP constitution says the party’s choice of a chief minister is decided by the party’s Parliamentary Board, there is also a clause that allows the party president to take a decision if an emergency arises.

Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh, trusted soldiers of the RSS, had worked quietly on the MLAs of both parties as well as those belonging to the JVM. The legislators were warned about the prospects of dissolution of the assembly and the possibilities of central rule under a Congress regime in New Delhi.

Even as they were in touch with important leaders in the state, they never divulged the shape and contours of the new government nor did they give out details of the time frame within which the operation was to be carried out.

His two earlier terms put together, Munda had served less than three years as chief minister.
The quicksand that Jharkhand politics is, it will be foolish to speculate how long he will stay in this third innings.

To hard core BJP sympathisers, that is less important than the fact that for the first time, the RSS not only stepped in but did so decisively. That’s not good news for the bosses at Ashoka Road.

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