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PM visit stokes money question

- Union minister Goyal steers deal on DVC debts; CM mum amid Marandi-Munda war cry

Ranchi, Aug. 20: On the eve of Narendra Modi’s first Jharkhand visit after becoming pradhan mantri or in his own words pradhan sevak, three men who have largely steered the state since its birth in 2000 are displaying three different moods before upcoming Assembly polls.

Former chief ministers and arch-rivals Arjun Munda of the BJP and Babulal Marandi, a BJP breakaway turned political foe, are at loggerheads over the supposed lavish preparations for Modi’s visit while JMM scion and chief minister Hemant Soren is conspicuously mum.

Modi is scheduled to visit Ranchi’s Prabhat Tara Ground in Dhurwa to inaugurate online a slew of government projects across infrastructure and energy sectors. Though the expenditure can’t be ascertained, the programme has multiple stakeholders, including the state and central governments, the PSUs involved and the party (BJP).

Marandi, Jharkhand’s first chief minister and BJP man till 2006 when he launched JVM, and whose political fortunes now are at their lowest ebb thanks to five of 11 MLAs defecting to the very party he spurned, is crying hoarse about “crores of public money” being spent to welcome Modi.

Over 50,000 people are expected to be present at the grounds tomorrow. In response to this, Marandi thundered: “Paise ke bal par logon ko ikattha kar rahein hain, caroron rupaiye kharch kar rahe hain, aap samajh sakte hain BJP ki halat (BJP is collecting people through money muscle, spending crores. We can well understand the situation of BJP).”

Given Marandi’s bad patch, the statement is politically unseemly. In May, Marandi lost the Dumka Lok Sabha seat to JMM chief Shibu Soren and his JVM was blanked out in Jharkhand in the Modi wave.

BJP leader and three-time chief minister Arjun Munda was quick to point it out.

Unke pas bolne ke liye kuchh raha nahi, har cheez ko rajnitik drishti se dekhne ki aadat ho gayi hai (Marandi has nothing much to say, but he has made it a habit to view everything through a political lens),” Munda said.

He added that Modi’s visit was solely aimed for the state’s development.

However, political watchers are seeing Marandi’s allegations as a form of defiance. When JVM MLAs openly said the party had lost relevance and announced their decision to join the BJP, it was widely rumoured that Marandi would also walk back to the national party fold. It was also speculated that Marandi might be tempted to join the BJP if assured that Munda, his old rival, would be sidelined.

Lashing out against the expenditure on Modi’s visit might be Marandi’s way of saying he was down but not out.

Amid the sound and the fury, Hemant, leading a fractious JMM-Congress-RJD coalition that has been panned for under-performance for the past 13 months now, is the quietest.

To share the dais with Modi and prominent BJP names tomorrow, the JMM scion spent yesterday and today holding meetings to take stock of preparations and with PSUs on initiatives to be launched tomorrow. No controversies or quotable quotes came out of him.