Corporate Manoeuvres and
New Government in Jharkhand
D P Buxi
The political scene in Jharkhand has witnessed some paradoxical trends this month. Thousands of working people marched in streets throughout the state to make Jharkhand Bandh, called by CPI(ML) in support of All India General Strike call, a grand success on 7 September. This militant mass political action contrasted with frequent formalistic bandhs called by the Maoists in the state – bandhs marked by lack of mass participation and political focus. The mass action of 7 September focused on burning issues of people of Jharkhand: the recurring drought situation resulting in a famine-like state, disinvestment and loot in the coal sector and so on.
But at the same time in a 'dramatic' development, various shady manipulations have smuggled the same alignment of political forces to power which failed to deliver a stable government earlier! The same forces, this time under the leadershiop of ex-CM Arjun Munda of BJP, went to the Governor's House to seek to form another government. The Governor invited Arjun Munda to form government, and Munda took oath with Sudesh Mahato of AJSU and Hemant Soren of JMM as Deputy CMs and in a one-day Assembly session, won the vote of confidence. The entire process was completed within one week.
The political situation in Jharkhand was in a virtual blind alley, and was certainly building towards another round of assembly elections after accomplishing the much-delayed Panchayat elections under PESA during Governor's rule itself. This expected course of events has been suddenly interrupted and changed by the emergence of the Arjun Munda-led BJP-JMM-AJSU-JD(U) coalition government. The irony is that the verdict of the last assembly elections was distinctly against the BJP (whose strength was reduced to 18 from 30 seats); yet the same BJP managed to capture power from the backdoor through the blessings of the JMM led by ‘Guruji’ (Shibu Soren) in the first round of coalition government, and now again after a brief stalemate, it has actually secured the Chief Minister’s seat in the same coalition government.
How did such a dramatic development come about? In given balance of forces in the Assembly, BJP-JD(U)-JMM-AJSU is the only viable combination. Hypothetically a combination minus BJP-JD(U)-JMM can possibly reach the magic number needed to form a government, but the real life chemistry of these variety of forces will not allow it. JVM, a newly emerged regional force that broke away from the BJP, neither can go with BJP nor JMM. A Congress-JMM combination is not viable in an immediate sense. This is why the same coalition whose Government earlier collapsed can again assumed a new lease of life.
More significantly, corporate houses played their game to end the political stalemate in Jharkhand and install a regime favourable to them. The role of a Nagpur-based businessman with mining interests in Jharkhand in manoeuvring Munda to power is an open secret. Already, in one of its very first moves, the Munda Government has given a breather to steel corporates. According to earlier decisions made by the previous Government, MoUs with steel majors would be cancelled if the latter failed to meet the October 31 deadline for land acquisition. These companies including ArcelorMittal , JSW, Essar Steel and Hindalco , are now likely to get more time to acquire land, since the Munda Government has announced its intention to review previous decisions.
As an additional factor the newly formed government was also inspired by the urge to thwart the Congress game-plan to hold Panchayat elections under PESA in Governor's rule. Congress has for now accepted the new political development and is now waiting for a fresh chance to regain political initiative.
But the Munda Government will not spell any departure from the past decade’s pattern of ruling politics in Jharkhand. Jharkhand has, in the decade since its formation, seen a series of unprincipled coalitions, presiding over unbridled loot of natural resources and massive corruption, alongside severe state repression, deprivation and denial of basic rights and welfare. Even after ten years of formation of Jharkhand, there is still no separate food and civil supply corporation in the state!
Munda has earlier been at the helm of such a Government and this time around the story will be the same. It was during Munda’s first term that a whole lot of infamous MoUs were signed between the Jharkhand government and different corporate houses, ushering n the regime of corporate land grab and loot, as well as repression of adivasis’ struggles. This time too Jharkhand’s ruling polity is likely to display the same continuity in its characteristic aspects: of opportunistic alliances, loot, corruption and repression.
Highlighting the recent cancellation of the bauxite mining lease for Vedanta in Orissa and the SC order for free distribution of food grains among the poor, the CPI(ML) will launch a popular campaign in Jharkhand against illegal mining, land acquisition and tribal alienation, violation of PESA and for proper rationing measures for the toiling masses. These are the issues that will remain the real agenda of Jharkhand people.