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JMM decides to ditch Munda

Ranchi, Jan. 7: Political crisis returned to the state today after Jharkhand Mukti Morcha announced its decision to withdraw support to the BJP-led alliance government, acting on a threat it has been holding out since December last year to pressure Arjun Munda to hand over reins of the government to a JMM chief minister.

The Munda-led coalition government, with Sudesh Mahto’s Ajsu as the third partner, is now reduced to a minority with 29 MLAs in an 82-member House (see chart).

Deputy chief minister Hemant Soren said his father and JMM chief, Shibu Soren, had been “asked by the party” to meet the Governor tomorrow and hand over a formal letter explaining their decision.

“There are some leaders in the BJP, particularly a parliamentarian from Santhal Pargana, who have been attacking our chief unnecessarily. We cannot compromise on the honour of our party chief when he is maligned by leaders of a coalition partner,” Hemant said, alluding to one of BJP’s most vocal critics of the coalition, Godda MP Nishikant Dubey.

“A coalition government cannot run like this. Therefore, we have decided to withdraw support,” Hemant added after coming out of a four-hour-long meeting of the JMM’s executive committee.

The BJP had been trying as late as this morning to avert a crisis — chief minister Munda, accompanied by state BJP chief Dineshanand Goswami and human resource development minister Baidyanath Ram, met Shibu Soren at his Morabadi residence.

But they were unable to placate the chief of the JMM that had put out a seven-point charter at the top of which was a demand to hand over the chief minister’s chair to the JMM for the remainder of the coalition government’s term till December 2014.

Till late tonight, senior leaders of the BJP were closeted at a meeting at their Harmu Road office.

Earlier, Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto met the chief minister along with party MLA and minister C. P. Chaudhary at his Kanke Road office where he apparently made it clear that he was ready to “give up” some of his portfolios — the Ajsu holds sports and youth affairs, labour, rural development, panchayati raj, water resources, science and technology — for the sake of the coalition.

Mahto then told newsmen that they had convened an “emergency” meeting on Wednesday to discuss the new challenges.

Hemant claimed that during the last two and a half years, his party had been neglected and there was total lack of coordination between coalition partners. Munda, he also claimed, had made no effort to resolve the issue.

“Tomorrow, we will be going to Raj Bhavan to hand over the letter withdrawing our support,” Shibu Soren said.

But, neither of the Sorens revealed their next move, or more importantly, if they were exploring other options with the Opposition Congress.

Differences between the two allies began to grow after the JMM supported UPA in Parliament on FDI in retail — JMM MP Kameshwar Baitha voted in favour of the UPA while Shibu Soren abstained. Thereafter, on December 7, the day of the Rajya Sabha vote, the JMM abstained.

Among the JMM’s demands cited in their latest charter were a rotational chief minister — the BJP denies there was any such agreement — strict execution of tenancy laws, identification of local natives on the basis of 1932 land records to enable them to secure Grade III and IV jobs, release of grants for madarsas and a poor-friendly rehabilitation policy for various project affected people.