‘Regime Change' in Jharkhand and the Voice of the People

- Political Observer

At last , the BJP finds itself eased out of power in Jharkhand. For the six years the party was in power in Jharkhand, it relentlessly pursued its divisive political agenda to divide the people while mortgaging the resources of the state through shady deals with corporate houses and unleashing brutal state repression to silence the voice of the people. It had managed to save its first government by changing the chief minister and following the February 2005 elections it again secured power by buying and blackmailing independent MLAs. But now the eventual exit of the Arjun Munda government clearly shows that every manipulation has its expiry date and none can prevent the people from having the last laugh and the last word.

With only one MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly, it is the CPI(ML) which had consistently spearheaded the popular democratic opposition in Jharkhand, challenging the BJP rule on every major issue whether on the floor of the Assembly or on the fields and streets of Jharkhand. The BJP-led government responded by going to the extent of engineering the assassination of our leader and legislator Comrade Mahendra Singh and incarceration of several of our leaders and activists in false cases. But this has never been able to deter the CPI(ML) and the people of Jharkhand from carrying forward the movement for democracy, development and dignity.

The change of guard in Jharkhand has however happened primarily through behind-the-scene negotiations and it has thrown up a coalition government that can only be described as a most bizarre version of the UPA. It is a UPA government headed by an independent MLA Madhu Koda whose entire political past has been associated with the RSS. In February 2000 he was elected to the Bihar Assembly on a BJP ticket and served as a minister in Jharkhand under the stewardship of both Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda. Denied a ticket by the BJP in February 2005, he fought and won as an independent MLA but rejoined the Munda government as a cabinet minister. The other ministers who have been sworn in along with Madhu Koda are the very people whose desertion from the Munda government caused its fall. Pulling the strings of this government headed by defectors and deserters will be the Congress while the JMM and RJD will be sharing the ministerial portfolios. It is widely believed that sooner rather than later the Congress will be plotting the fall of this government much the same way it has pulled down governments headed by Chandrashekhar, Deve Gowda, and IK Gujral at the centre in the 1990s.

In a display of utter political dishonesty and opportunism, the UPA managers had included the name of the CPI(ML) MLA in the list of 43 pro-UPA MLAs submitted to the Governor. However, the bluff was soon exposed when the Governor asked them to acquire a letter of support from all MLAs. The CPI(ML) had already made it clear that it would have nothing to do with the dubious game the Congress was playing in Jharkhand by propping up a captive government headed by an ‘independent' MLA. Instead of allowing the communal and right-reactionary BJP to monopolise the opposition space, the CPI(ML) would continue to play the role of a vigilant and vibrant Left opposition and hold high the banner of democracy, justice, dignity and development for the oppressed and exploited people of Jharkhand. Forward Bloc, the only other Left party with a presence in the Jharkhand Assembly has however found itself in a tight spot. It has had to expel one of its MLAs for systematic violation of discipline, and it is now reportedly under pressure to let its remaining MLA accept a ministerial berth in the new government. It will also be interesting to watch how the former BJP chief minister Babulal Marandi who had quit the BJP and begun projecting himself as an ‘opposition' leader against the Munda government redefines his role in the changed political context.

At this juncture of ‘transfer of power' from one coalition to another, instead of remaining confined to the floor of the Assembly, the CPI(ML) has decided to go to the people in a big way to highlight the following set of urgent democratic demands: (i) cancellation of all the MOUs signed by the previous government and probe into all corrupt deals, (ii) immediate suspension of notorious SP Dipak Varma and institution of high-level inquiry into allegations of murder, torture, and misappropriation of funds, (iii) strict implementation of Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts and cancellation of all illegal transfers of land away from the tribal people, (iv) adequate rehabilitation measures for all displaced persons, revival of sick and closed public sector units, filling up of all vacancies and increase in the honorarium paid to para-teachers and other contract workers pending regularisation of their jobs, (v) early organisation of panchayat elections and strict implementation of the NREGA, (vi) rehabilitation of families of martyrs of the Jharkhand movement and activists and innocent people killed in police firing since the formation of Jharkhand state, release of all political prisoners and withdrawal of false cases on political leaders and activists. The CPI(ML) appeals to all who sincerely cherish the cause of democracy, development and dignity in Jharkhand to boldly raise the voice of the people at this hour of ‘regime change'.