The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi merged with the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday, giving stimulus to the saffron party smarting from defeat in the November-December 2019 state assembly polls.
Union home minister Amit Shah, credited with BJP's phenomenal expansion as its president, was present at a well-attended public rally where he welcomed Marandi, a respectable tribal leader and the first chief minister of Jharkhand, back into the saffron party.
Shah also assured the tribal leader that he will get due respect and responsibility in the BJP.
"I am delighted that Babulal Marandi has returned to BJP. I was working for his return since 2014 when I became the party president," Shah told the gathering that cheered lustily.
Shah said after quitting the BJP over "personal and organisational" issues in 2006, Marandi became "a 'ghumantu' (wandering) leader, sharing the sorrow and happiness of the people of Jharkhand, setting an example of how to be among people without power, too".
"Today, he is back with lotus (BJP's election symbol) in hand. The BJP will now grow further in strength," he said.
Referring to the defeat in the assembly election, the home minister said, "Electoral win or loss is not BJP's goal. Its goal is the progress of the state. We worked hard when in power, we will work harder in the opposition. We will fight corruption, terrorism and naxalism with even greater vigour."
He also spoke about the Ayodhya dispute and withdrawal of special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Shah praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for resolving intractable Reang-Bru crisis and for the new Bodo accord.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ensured Kashmir becomes an integral part of India forever by scrapping articles 370 and 35(A) of the Constitution," he said.
The home minister said he was confident that the BJP will move forward and establish greater connect with the masses in Jharkhand under the triad of Marandi, Union tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda and former chief minister Raghubar Das.
He assured all leaders and workers of the JVM-P who joined the BJP that they will feel at home and get the respect they deserve.
Marandi was the chief minister of Jharkhand from November 2000 to March 2003.
A four-time former MP, he gradually drifted away from the BJP and launched his own outfit -- Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik in 2006.
In his address, Marandi said his return to the BJP was not sudden and that leaders of the saffron party had been trying to persuade him to return since the time he floated the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik.
"PM Modi had sent an emissary to me during my visit to Kolkata in 2014 after my party lost both Lok Sabha and assembly elections but I refused. I was stubborn (ziddi). But I admit whatever I am today is because of the BJP," he said.
Marandi said he never hankered after power and position, and will accept whatever responsibility he given by the party.
He also briefly touched upon the issue of the contentious citizenship law, claiming "fear" was being spread about it by opposition parties.
"Our country is secular because of Hindutva and the BJP is its foremost proponent. Most parties now work for one family. If there is one worker-centric party, it's the BJP," he said.
The JVM-P had won three seats in the 2019 assembly polls.
Marandi, who also won, later sacked two MLAs-Pradip Yadav and Bandhu Tirkey, for hobnobbing with the Congress.
The JMM-Congress-RJD alliance had won 47 of the state's 81 seats, while the then ruling BJP, which ploughed a lonely furrow, bagged 25.