Cloud in Ranchi | The Indian Express

Political uncertainty looms large in Ranchi as a series of developments threaten the stability of the JMM-led coalition government in Jharkhand. In the wake of the Presidential election that saw cross-voting among the ruling coalition legislators, three Congress MLAs were apprehended by West Bengal police near Howrah on Saturday with a large amount of cash in their vehicle. A time-bound probe is necessary to clear the air on the cash. Meanwhile, the Congress suspended the three MLAs on Sunday claiming the cash was linked to “BJP’s Operation Lotus” to topple the Hemant Soren government. The coalition is already under strain with Chief Minister Soren and his office battling corruption allegations: His aide, Pankaj Mishra, was recently arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, and the Election Commission is looking into a reference by Governor Ramesh Bais regarding a complaint that has sought the disqualification of Soren for allegedly owning a mining lease. The JMM-Congress-RJD coalition had won a reasonable majority in the 2019 assembly elections (49 seats in a House of 81 members), but the suspension of three Congress MLAs and the shadow of disqualification over the CM may force the coalition to unravel.

Incidentally, unstable coalition governments have been a feature of Jharkhand since the state was formed in 2000 — the only CM to complete a full term in office has been Raghubar Das (2014-19). This time a combination of forces — not least the allies themselves — seem to be working against the JMM-led coalition government, which has two more years in office. The backdrop, of course, is the overreaching ambition and organisational might of the BJP that is leaving no stone unturned to regain power in states the party had lost. In recent times, it successfully split the ruling parties in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, which it had failed to win in 2018 and 2019 respectively, to form the government. In Maharashtra, it weaned away a section of the Shiv Sena to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Two, Central agencies such as the ED and CBI under the BJP government at the Centre seem to be closely watching opposition MLAs. The cloud of corruption constantly hovers over a resource-rich, under-developed Jharkhand, where politicians have been often caught with their hands in the till. A shift in political allegiance could possibly offer relief from the heat of investigations. Three, both regional parties and the Congress that used to be the pivot of Opposition coalitions seem to have lost their way and are in no position to challenge an aggressive BJP when the latter makes a serious bid for power. The resolve of the JMM-Congress-RJD coalition will be tested in the coming days.

Clearly, coalition politics, especially in the Opposition space, is at the crossroads as the BJP works to expand its footprint and argues that a “double-engine” government (governments led by the same party at the Centre and the state) is essential for economic growth and development. The BJP will use all the resources at its command and it surely doesn’t help regional parties if they have skeletons of their own in the coalition cupboard.

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