Ranchi, Jan. 9: Independents, who have an exalted position in the vagaries of Jharkhand politics, are flexing their muscles again with Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey taking the initiative to establish contact with the JMM and the Congress, assuring them of their “unconditional” support to “any new government formation”.
Of the five Independent MLAs, Harinarayan Rai is out on conditional bail for four months after having spent over three years in jail. He and Jharkhand Party leader Anosh Ekka are fighting corruption charges slapped on them for their role as ministers in the cabinet of Madhu Koda, an Independent propped up as chief minister by none other the Congress.
Naturally, both Ekka and Rai are keeping a low profile this time.
Tirkey, who claimed to be in touch with other Independents, met JMM chief Shibu Soren at his Morabadi residence this morning. Later, accompanied by Bishunpur MLA Chamra Linda, he also called on Governor Syed Ahmed. Yesterday, they met state Congress president Pradeep Balmuchu.
“Hum log khudra byapari haen. Bare partyon jaise JMM aur Congress ko pehal karna hoga (We are like small traders. Big parties like JMM and Congress will have to take the lead),” Tirkey told The Telegraph.
The Mandar MLA said he had already contacted other Independents like him — Jagannathpur’s Geeta Koda and Panki’s Videsh Singh. All were ready to extend support to any new government formation.
To ensure there was no hitch, he even met Koda at Birsa Munda Central Jail yesterday to get his okay to his wife Geeta coming out in support of a government cobbled together by the Congress and JMM.
“We think an alternative government should be formed instead of dissolution of the Assembly or clamping President’s Rule. We have requested the governor to ensure democratic values are upheld in the state,” Tirkey said moments after he left Raj Bhavan.
The Mandar MLA is aware of the credibility-blow Koda and Co. have dealt to Independents. That’s why he insisted they were not looking to extract any favours and would be extending unconditional support.
“Humlog koi saudebazi nahin karenge. Nirdaliyon ke upar is tarah ke aarop nahi lagne chaliye. Lekin humlog hamesha rajya ke muddon par question uthate rahenge (We will not indulge in any kind of horse-trading. Independents should not be viewed with suspicion. But, we will continue to raise questions on vital issues concerning the state),” said the former HRD minister.
The Independents are well aware that sooner or later, when efforts to form a government gained momentum, they would be part of the numbers game. With Ajsu, a coalition member in the last government, indicating it was in favour of fresh elections and similar views being expressed by Babulal Marandi’s JVM, any new government formation will require the support of Independents and MLAs belonging to smaller parties.
Apart from Tirkey, Linda, Singh, Rai and Geeta Koda, other MLAs belonging to smaller parties include Arup Chatterjee (Marxist Coordination Committee), Anosh Ekka (Jharkhand Party) and Vinod Singh (CPI-ML Liberation), who has always chosen to side with the Opposition.
“We have not been formally contacted yet. But, if we are, we will surely discuss the issues behind supporting a new government,” said Ashok Kumar Bhagat, a Jharkhand Party leader.
Ekka, who is on a visit to the interiors of Simdega district, could not be contacted.
But, the Congress is likely to think twice before accepting the hand of tainted MLAs this time after the Koda experiment backfired on it.
“If MLAs with negative image aren’t kept in the cabinet and their support is taken only from outside, we may think of backing a new government. But, the nature of our support will be decided at a central committee meeting after we are approached,” said Sushant Mukherjee of Chatterjee’s party, Marxist Coordination Committee.