Chief minister Arjun Munda unveils the plaque to formally inaugurate the four-lane Adityapur-Kandra Road on Monday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
The shadow of uncertainty on the future of the ruling coalition only lengthened today when Shibu Soren and son Hemant skipped a road inauguration by Arjun Munda in Adityapur and their partymen made desperate attempts to fill in the gap.
The JMM chief and his scion remained conspicuous by their absence, despite being invited as guests of honour, while the chief minister formally opened the Rs 185.5-crore Adityapur-Kandra four-lane road.
The function was, however, attended by two JMM leaders — transport minister Champai Soren and Baharagora MLA Vidyut Baran Mahto.
Sources said the two trusted lieutenants of Soren senior openly praised the BJP-led coalition. Champai had “good words” for the Munda government to indicate that the political stalemate between his party and the BJP was subsiding — in fact, even tilting in favour of the chief minister.
“Sarkar ka niv achcha bana hai aur aane wale din bhi achcha rahega (The foundation of this government has been good and it is going to be better in the coming days),” he said, addressing the gathering .
Soren and Hemant missing in action must have been an unpleasant surprise for the BJP, particularly after the lengthy meeting the JMM chief had with Munda at his residence on Sunday.
Munda’s line after the meeting was bullish. “We have discussed the political problems affecting the coalition government. Our government is stable,” he had said.
Sources revealed that Soren too had categorically asked Hemant “not to create much problem” for the chief minister. “Arjun Munda mera beta Durga (the late Durga Soren) jaisa hai. Woh bane CM ya main banu, ek hi baat hai. (Arjun Munda is like my son Durga. It is the same if he becomes CM, or I do),” a source quoted the JMM chief as telling his son during the meeting.
But, the absence of the Sorens today alerted critics again.
Throughout the last day of the year, the father-son duo stayed put at their capital homes. The only time Hemant was seen was when he visited his father at his Morabadi residence in the afternoon.
Sources at the chief minister’s house, meanwhile, said Munda’s reply paper on the JMM’s demands was nearly ready and would be handed over to Soren senior in a day or two.
The ally wish list includes execution of tenancy laws, identifying natives based on 1932 land records to entitle them to grade-III and grade-IV jobs, release of grants-in-aid to madarsas and a rehabilitation policy for the poor, besides the grand demand for 28-month power-sharing.
Political strategists are of the view that things might get complicated once the chief minister hands over his reply.
“If Munda assures the JMM that the land records will be the basis for identification of natives or his government would become very generous towards madarsas, it will directly affect the traditional BJP vote bank. And, to compensate the losses, he will have to give fairer deals to Sanskrit schools and lesser-known educational institutions,” pointed out a senior BJP leader.
JMM core committee secretary Vinod Pandey conceded that the “bond of mutual trust” between his party and the BJP had weakened. “The chief minister’s written reply will be analysed critically at the meeting of JMM district presidents and secretaries on January 6 and the party’s central committee meeting on January 10. A future action plan will be worked out accordingly,” he said.
JVM principal general secretary Pradeep Yadav, on the other hand, claimed that his party never took the ongoing BJP-JMM conflict seriously because it was a “clash of personal interests” among certain individual heavyweights of the two parties.
In all this political brouhaha, Ajsu chief and Munda’s other deputy Sudesh Mahto hasn’t spoken a word. His party colleague and state steering committee member Deo Sharan Bhagat has, however, insisted that the government is stable.