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 Bharatiya Janata Party Parliamentary board on Monday. 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 Jharkhand Mukti Morcha 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 Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik. The 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.