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Since 1st March, 1999
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Guruji faces identity crisis

Bundu (Ranchi), Dec. 19: The biggest challenge for chief minister Shibu Soren, even before he managed to kick off his Tamar by-election campaign, was answering a politically naive elderly woman.

After removing Anosh Ekka and Harinarayan Rai from his cabinet last evening, Soren today reached Tamar to feel the pulse of the electorate. He was stumped when a baffled Malti Devi, a resident of Pathradih village, asked Soren whether he was one of those netas (leaders) from Ranchi.

Officials accompanying the chief minister quickly pointed out that the person standing in front of her was none other than “Guruji, the pioneer of the Jharkhand movement”, but Malti Devi and her neighbours looked little enlightened. Instead, the “ignorant woman” had the cheek to ask the “important man” why her son and daughter were still unemployed despite being educated.

Panch Pargana Kisan College in Bundu was Soren’s first stop today. Though the main gate was locked, students jostled in balconies and on rooftops to catch a glimpse of the star politician.

HRD minister Bandhu Tirkey took the onus of telling teachers that they were hosting a VIP while Soren tried to strike a more relevant conversation with Malti, who was busy thrashing paddy.

While he waxed eloquent, the confused elderly felt compelled to ask Soren whether he had come from “the capital”.

After giving a detailed introduction and facing a volley of queries from Malti Devi, a bewildered Soren only mumbled his inability to make “new promises”, as he was bound by model code of conduct and left.

Tirkey and Soren later headed for the Amanat Ali Inter College, where, fortunately, the chief minister faced no more “embarrassing” questions. He devoted himself to waiting for Hemant Soren, his son, who was campaigning in nearby villages.

The only other time that the chief minister lost his cool during the day was when some curious reporter questioned his “sudden change of heart” regarding Tamar. “I had never given anything in writing, had I?” he snapped.

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