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CM Soren targets Congress, makes it easy for BJP's 'Operation Lotus'

By R Krishna Das
March 28, 2022 17:26 IST
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Given the dismal show of the Congress in the recently concluded assembly polls and the JMM eating into its vote bank, the possibility of Congress MLAs switching sides is not bleak, reports R Krishna Das.

Rameshwar Oraon, Jharkhand’s finance minister and a Congressman, is in a fix. Chief Minister Hemant Soren has been taking and executing crucial decisions related to his ministry and he gets to know of those later.

IMAGE: Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren during the Holi Milan ceremony, in the Jharkhand assembly complex, Ranchi, March 15, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

The subsidy on petrol, announced by Soren on January 26, is reported to be the latest of those.

The unfolding political development in the state is another sign of trouble in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led coalition government, of which the Congress is part.

Oraon is one of the four ministers from the Congress in the 11-member cabinet, including the chief minister.


The other three have the same predicament of the chief minister ignoring them, which is making the party’s alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha vulnerable.

Matters took a messy turn in the last week of February during the Congress’s Chintan Shivar, a three-day meeting of MLAs, party leaders, and members held in Giridih district.

A visibly upset Health Minister Banna Gupta vented his anger and said the Congress had been sidelined.

“JMM chief Soren is trying to finish the party in the state,” Gupta said, to the surprise of Avinash Pandey, who has been newly put in charge of the Congress affairs in Jharkhand.

Suman Srivastava, a political observer, said: “The Congress cadre is unhappy with the JMM because the latter is not taking it into confidence regarding most of the important decisions, which include the crucial original language issue.”

The JMM wants to take all the credit for governance in Jharkhand and that is weakening the Congress’s base, he said, adding that Soren had taken decisions to shift the Church vote, which was for the Congress, to his party.

The JMM leadership is sceptical about the Congress MLAs after the arrest of three persons at a hotel in Ranchi in July last year for allegedly conspiring to topple the coalition government.

The names of three Congress MLAs had popped up prominently.

What adds a further dimension to the episode is that RPN Singh, who was in charge of Jharkhand and had a deep involvement with the Congress cadre, moved to the Bharatiya Janata Party in January.

Interestingly, Congress leaders in the state burst crackers when news came of Singh crossing the fence.

It was only after his exit that they said Singh was 'plotting' to break up the party and pave the way for the BJP to come to power.

Soon after Singh left the Congress, the party’s Barkagaon MLA, Amba Prasad, said, “He was party to the dirty game the BJP played in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, and Northeastern states.”

It is learnt at least eight Congress MLAs in Jharkhand are in touch with Singh.

The Congress has 18 MLAs in the House and 12 together can split the legislature party without having to resign.

Given the dismal show of the Congress in the recently concluded assembly polls and the JMM eating into its vote bank, the possibility of Congress MLAs switching sides is not bleak.

Political pundits say Soren is making a strategic mistake by 'targeting' the Congress.

Even if the Congress legislature party does not split on numbers, the chances of 'Operation Lotus,' similar to Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, cannot be ruled out in Jharkhand, though that is difficult in this case because in the House of 81, the JMM-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance has 51 seats while the BJP and its allies 31.

Another recent development squared with the changing political equations in the state.

A third entity named Jharkhand Democratic Front was formed. It included the All Jharkhand Students Union and the Nationalist Congress Party.

Two AJSU MLAs, Sudesh and Lambodar Mahto, independent MLAs Amit Yadav and Saryu Rai, and NCP MLA Kamlesh Singh are part of it.

In the case of a crisis, the front will support the BJP.

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R Krishna Das in Ranchi
Source: source
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