Hemlal Murmu (centre) with his supporters at his Ranchi residence after resigning from the JMM on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, March 7: JMM chief Shibu Soren’s trusted lieutenant for three decades and Santhal Pargana strongman Hemlal Murmu (61) tendered his resignation this afternoon after his meeting yesterday with Shibu’s political heir and chief minister Hemant Soren over the Rajmahal seat didn’t go down well.
Hours after sitting MP of Palamau Kameshwar Baitha left JMM after talks with Arjun Munda of the BJP last evening, JMM’s Barhet MLA and former Rajmahal MP Murmu shot off a resignation letter to the party office at Bariatu around 2pm today.
Speaking to The Telegraph at his official residence in Doranda, Murmu was candid. “I sent my resignation via a fax to the party office and sent the letter via my PA as well,” he said, adding it was addressed to Soren Senior. “I wrote aaraam mehsoos nahin kar rahein hain (I am not comfortable).”
The reason is no secret either.
“Yesterday evening I had a meeting with Hemant for well over 45 minutes over the Rajmahal seat, but he was not convinced about fielding me,” Murmu said, implying Shibu’s son was autocratic and taking all decisions alone.
The bone of contention seems to be Vijay Hansdah, the son of Murmu’s one-time Congress rival from Rajmahal, the late Thomas Hansdah. Murmu had defeated Hansdah senior at the Lok Sabha hustings in Rajmahal in 2004.
Vijay joined the JMM camp from the Congress day before yesterday, forcing many to speculate that the young man in his 30s would be Hemant’s choice for Rajmahal instead of old party loyalist Murmu.
Instead of putting up with the perceived insult, Murmu preferred to end his three-decade-old innings with the JMM. “Hemant is surrounded by opportunists, brokers and sycophants. Guruji (Shibu Soren) now has little say in the party,” Murmu said.
Vijay’s induction to the JMM also angered Congress party state president Sukhdeo Bhagat. He called on Hemant to say that this kind of “poaching” just before the LS polls did not augur well for coalition dharma.
Like Baitha, he is also in talks with Arjun Munda and the BJP. But unlike the Palamau MP, Murmu is keeping his cards close to his chest.
Party watchers conceded bumper-to-bumper defections of Murmu and Baitha were tough on the JMM.
For the Palamau seat, the fact that the Congress, by virtue of its seat-sharing pact with JMM, appeared to be holding the aces and dangling it as a carrot before the RJD, angered Baitha.
The outspoken Palamau sitting MP, who met Munda in Ranchi yesterday, later burst out: “The JMM has sold the Scheduled Caste reserved Palamau seat. I have no option but to join BJP soon.” However, the BJP is yet to take a final decision.
Murmu, the JMM MP from Rajmahal between 2004 and 2009, has been a JMM MLA for four times in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2010. He had served as a minister during the previous Arjun Munda government.
On his next move, Murmu said he would meet supporters from his area before taking a final plunge on his next political affiliation.
Though there are plenty of slips between the cup and the lip, it seems the BJP may be the biggest gainer. But on the flip side, accommodating too many disgruntled defectors from other parties and handling egos may prove to be a problem for the saffron brigade.