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ABJECT SURRENDER

Coalition governments have little choice but to survive on compromises. But Jharkhand’s chief minister, Mr Babulal Marandi, has earned his reprieve with, not a compromise, but an abject surrender of his authority. The rebellious ministers, who had been demanding his ouster, have relented only after Mr Marandi agreed not to remove them from his cabinet. His hands were forced by the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which obviously was anxious not to lose another state government close on the heels of its defeat in the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. Since the rebel ministers and the legislators supporting them belong to the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United), the BJP could not risk alienating the allies before another round of elections later this year. In so doing, the BJP leadership has virtually forced Mr Marandi to drop the corruption charges for which he wanted to remove these ministers . It is difficult to see how the chief min-ister will exercise his authority over the administration after this. It is not difficult, however, to assume that the rebels will now show an even greater defiance of the chief minister.

The coalition rivalry can thus cripple the administration in a newly-formed state which is still nursing its teething troubles. An administrative collapse can have disastrous consequences for the government’s battle against the Maoist extremists who hold large parts of the state to ransom. The BJP and its allies may have ensured the survival of Mr Marandi and his gov-ernment, but they have also badly damaged the functioning of the administration. And, after all this, the stability of the government may still be in question. Since the BJP has only 32 legislators in the 81-member Jharkhand assembly, all the eight legislators of the Samata Party and the JD(U) were made ministers to ensure the government’s stability. Even that did not stop the non-BJP ministers from baiting the chief minister. It is almost certain that neither Mr Marandi nor his opponents will like to lose future opportunities to settle scores. This is an ominous prospect for a tribal-majority state where the battle against poverty, and not the one against cabinet colleagues, should have kept the chief minister busy.

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