JVM president Babulal Marandi with party leaders at a news meet in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
New Delhi/ Ranchi, Feb. 9: After failed attempts to bend it, the BJP seems set to break Babulal Marandi's JVM to add numerical cushion to the Raghubar Das government that only has three MLAs more than the Opposition in the state Assembly.
In a stunning, though unconfirmed development, six of eight MLAs from Marandi's party, who were said to be "traceless" after failing to attend a JVM meeting, look like joining the saffron party.
A senior BJP leader in Delhi told The Telegraph: "They (the JVM MLAs) are in Delhi and are breaking away from the JVM. We will formally announce it soon. It looks like Marandi's party will cease to exist."
The Delhi BJP leader claimed the JVM leaders who had decided to defect were at an "undisclosed location" in Delhi and at least one had been promised a key portfolio in the Das cabinet.
Barely five weeks after Raghubar Das was sworn in as the head of the BJP-Ajsu simple majority government, politics is back in circus mode with MLAs juggling party affiliations and switching sides with the consummate ease of trapeze artistes.
JVM supremo Marandi suspended four MLAs, lending credence to rumours that the BJP, smarting from its failed courtship of Marandi this past month, had better luck with his men.
He smelt a rat when only two MLAs turned up for the JVM legislative party meeting at the party's Dibdih headquarters today at 3pm. Pradeep Yadav (Poreyahat) and Prakash Ram (Latehar) came, but Navin Jaiswal (Hatia), Randhir Kumar Singh (Sarath), Janki Prasad Yadav (Barkathha), Ganesh Gounjhu (Simaria), Amar Kumar Bouri (Chandankyari) and Alok Kumar Chourasia (Daltonganj) were absent physically and incommunicado on cellphone.
Hours later, Marandi formally suspended four absentees - Jaiswal, Bouri, Chourasia and Gounjhu - for anti-party activities and sent a letter to this effect to the state Assembly. The letter of suspension, signed by Marandi, has been forwarded to Speaker Dinesh Oraon.
But, among them, Randhir Kumar Singh (Sarath), who has not been suspended, and Ganesh Gounjhu (Simaria), who has been, later spoke to The Telegraph over phone.
"I was unaware of any legislative party meeting called either by Marandi or Yadav. I am in Sarath. So far, there is no question of my joining the BJP, but whatever I do will be openly and not furtively done. But, I am opposed to JVM's recent political hobnobbing with the JMM," Singh said this evening.
Around 8pm, Gounjhu took The Telegraph's call and said he was "aghast" at his suspension.
"I am in my village Lawalong, in Simaria, Chatra district. I'm busy with people of my constituency. Tomorrow I will go to Ranchi on this matter," he claimed.
On his part, Marandi, perhaps to justify his suspensions, told the media that he was "in touch with" Singh of Sarath and Janki Prasad Yadav from Barkathha.
As far as numbers go, this Assembly elections, the BJP won 37 seats and cobbled a simple majority with 5 Ajsu MLAs in the 81-member House. But, sceptical of its ally's dependability based on past arm-twisting history, chief minister Das did not expand his Cabinet beyond five sworn in on December 28 while the BJP kept wooing JVM's Marandi for support of his party's eight MLAs.
Though Marandi lost the Assembly elections, his party emerged the third largest after BJP and JMM. But Marandi, who started his political career as an RSS pracharak before joining the BJP, left in the mid-2000s. He did not melt to merger overtures allegedly made by BJP national president Amit Shah.
After today, Marandi's biggest loss of face is that apparently many of his MLAs were quite amenable to BJP offers.
"The BJP indulged in the politics of money and not issues. They dropped morality to break our party. We will go to Raj Bhavan tomorrow and urge the governor to set up a high-level judicial inquiry. We will observe Kala Diwas on February 11," Marandi said.
Marandi loyalist Yadav thundered: "The BJP is doing dirty politics."
Chief minister Das came back to Ranchi from Delhi late this evening but made no comments.
His party and cabinet colleague C.P. Singh said: "It's an internal matter of Babulal Marandi's party. As far as blaming BJP goes, I must say the JVM is unable to keep its flock together. BJP would take right political move at the opportune moment."
Ajsu MLA and minister Chandra Prakash Choudhary said they were "watching developments".