|Shibu Soren (top) and Sanjeev Kumar
Ranchi, May 6: By ensuring Sanjeev Kumar made it to the upper House of Parliament in the face of stiff opposition from ally BJP, the JMM has redeemed its dubious past of hand-picking rich people to the Rajya Sabha.
The political grandstanding was also Shibu Soren’s way of saying thank you to the 54-year-old lawyer. For, it was from Kumar’s house in Maniadih, a village nestled amid forests in the foothills of Parasnath hills in Dhanbad, that Guruji carried out his Jharkhand movement in the ’70s.
“Maniadih had only one primary school,” recalled Kumar. “And the high school was 11km away at Rajganj. I often covered this distance on foot on weekends when I would return to my village from the hostel.”
After clearing matriculation in 1975-76, Sanjeev joined intermediate at Giridih College. Those days, Soren would often give him a lift on his motorcycle to take him to Giridih.
But funnily, it was always not like this. Soren, whose Jharkhand movement was targeted at “dikus (outsiders), zamindars (landlords) and money lenders”, had in fact, confiscated land belonging to Kumar’s family, terming them “exploiters” of tribals.
But, later he got to know them better and began running the agitation from their house. That bond has lasted ever since.
After Kumar graduated from Ranchi College, Soren took him to Delhi and allowed him to stay with him till he completed his law degree.
During a stint with Ram Jethmalani as an assistant, Kumar is said to have specialised in handling narcotics cases. And later, he fought all of Soren’s cases — the Chirudih massacre case, the JMM bribery case and the Shashi Nath Jha murder case.
Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when Kumar’s Rajya Sabha mission become a family obsession for the Sorens. Even Guruji’s wife Rupi is understood to have have backed the move whole-heartedly.
“It is for the first time that the JMM has not had allegations of misuse of money power thrown at it, while both Congress and BJP have been mired in controversies,” Kumar told The Telegraph from Dhanbad.
“I got a hero’s welcome right from Dhanbad to my village where my mother still stays along with three of my elder brothers,” he said.
After the formation of Jharkhand in 2000, the state had become a free hunting ground for rich people to enter the House of Elders.
The JMM set the trend that year by fielding noted lawyer R.K. Anand, who is from Delhi.
Parimal Nathwani, group president (corporate affairs) of Reliance Industries, won the election in 2008 as an Independent. At least nine JMM MLAs, two RJD and a few of others helped him.
JMM cross-voting meant the party’s official candidate got only eight votes.
In 2010, JMM again chose a non-resident industrialist, K.D. Singh, head of Alchemist Group. He won with help of five additional votes from Ajsu, but never set foot in Jharkhand again. Later, he deserted the JMM to join the Trinamul Congress.
“We have had bad experiences with outsiders. This time, we made up our mind to send a son of the soil to the Rajya Sabha at any cost,” JMM legislature party leader Hemant Soren said.
Of course, backing outsiders has not been the sole domain of the JMM. Even the Congress and the BJP have shown undue haste in fielding outsiders — it must be noted though that there is no constitutional impropriety in so doing.
BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia, a Sikh born and brought up in Asansol, was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar in 2000 and was allotted to represent Jharkhand following reorganisation of the states. He was re-elected from Jharkhand in 2006, but had to bite the dust in 2012.
In 2004, the BJP also backed JD(U) leader from Bihar, the late Digvijay Singh.
Congress MP Mabelo Rebello of Goan descent has had no connection with Jharkhand whatsoever. She was elected in 2006 along with Ahluwalia.