The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No government can function if it has to constantly worry about its survival. The coalition government in Jharkhand, headed by Mr Arjun Munda, does not seem to have found its feet yet. The simmering dissent within the Bharatiya Janata Party and its coalition partners shows no sign of dying down. Mr Munda may not be immediately facing the kind of revolt from within the alliance that forced his predecessor, Mr Babulal Marandi, to quit earlier this year. But he still has to grapple with the ministerial ambitions of party colleagues and alliance partners that created a hopeless situation for Mr Marandi. Mr Munda may try to get over the problem by inducting new ministers in a cabinet reshuffle. But this solution has often proved worse than the problem, because no cabinet expansion satisfies all aspirants. What Mr Munda actually needs to do is establish his authority over both the coalition and the administration. He may be a new entrant to the BJP, having migrated to it from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha only four years ago. But, having chosen him as chief minister, the BJP has an obligation to rally not only the entire state unit of the party but also the alliance partners behind him.

The most important thing, however, is not the survival of Mr Munda’s government but its ability to govern. Yet another spell of political instability can be ruinous to the state’s fragile peace. The shadow of Naxalite violence hangs over nearly one-third of the state. It is an irresponsible — and insensitive — government that sacrifices its basic administrative duties at the altar of partisan politics. Mr Munda cannot afford to let the coalition’s internal problems stall or slow down the all-important fight against the extremists. The battle against Naxalites is also closely linked to development priorities of the government because economic deprivations often push the poor to political extremism. Mr Munda’s hands should actually be full of devising ways to reach out to the people living below the poverty line. His government’s energies should be spent on finding a solution to the vexed issue of job reservations and the domicile policy, which rocked the state recently. But the problem is that politicians’ preferences are often very different from the people’s.

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