Ranchi, March 10: The eight-month-old JMM-led coalition government of Hemant Soren suddenly finds itself on a sticky wicket with friendly MLAs switching sides and at least one party MLA quitting to look for greener pastures.
Technically, the JMM-Congress-RJD government enjoys the support of 43 MLAs _ JMM 18, Congress 13, RJD 5, MCC 1 and six others in a House of 82. That means the ruling coalition has a buffer of four MLAs, against an Opposition of 39 MLAs.
But recently, two MLAs supporting the government, Chandra Shekhar Dubey of the Congress and Hemlal Murmu of the JMM, resigned from their respective parties.
While Dubey joined the Trinamul Congress (TMC) of Mamata Banerjee. Murmu has not announced his choice, although he has made no attempt to hide his overtures to the BJP.
Another jolt has came in the form of friendly Independents. Two MLAs, Chamra Linda and Bandhu Tirkey, also joined the TMC which has not spelt out its stand on whether it would extend support to the state government after the Lok Sabha polls.
It is no secret that both Dubey and Murmu are no admirers of Hemant and don’t think much about his leadership skills. Hence, together with the two Independents, they have thrown up unexpected challenges for the fledgling government.
Sources in the JMM claimed the chief minister, during private discussions with his aides, did not rule out the possibility of his government’s fall after the Lok Sabha polls.
“It is a guessing game now. But he is not worried because Assembly polls will be held at the end of the year. Till the general elections, there is no threat to the government. Much depends on the performances of the UPA and the BJP in Jharkhand,” said a close aide of the chief minister.
The TMC is holding on to its cards tight. “We will take a decision on supporting (the government) only after the Lok Sabha polls,” said party general secretary Mukul Roy.
If the TMC decides to join the Opposition, the government will collapse. The TMC, sources, maintained, was eyeing a couple of other disgruntled fence-sitter MLAs like Geeta Koda of Jagannathpur and Polush Surin (JMM) of Torpa.
Koda is supporting the government. And if the TMC is successful in wooing her and Surin, then the party will hold the key to the Hemant Soren government’s future.
“Wait till the Lok Sabha is formed. Mamata didi will take a call on this,” Tirkey said with Linda nodding in agreement.
Dubey, sources maintained, has vowed to pull down the government, while Mumru believes no external effort was required to ensure the collapse of the state government.
The monsoon session of the Assembly in July will prove crucial for Hemant as by then, the new Lok Sabha will be in place.
But JMM and Congress bosses are working on a different strategy. So far, neither party has informed the Speaker about the defection of MLAs so that action can be taken under Anti-Defection Law.
“Options of home-coming should be exhausted first,” said a senior JMM leader. “Everybody is busy with the Lok Sabha polls. Do you think their defection is an issue right now?” he said.
If the Assembly memberships of Dubey and Murmu were to be cancelled, the House strength would be reduced to 80. In that eventuality, the government could, theoretically stay on by virtue of a wafer thin majority of one MLA.
But that cannot be guaranteed unless the TMC makes its stand clear.
It all depends on Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta who is a JMM man. “I will take a decision about their membership once I receive a written request from both parties. I can’t act on the basis of media reports,” he said.
As for Bandhu and Linda, the Speaker said he was yet to receive a request from the TMC to recognise them as party members. “I will see whether the Anti-Defection Law can be applied to them or not,” he added.