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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 23, May 29, 2010

Rascal or Rogue? The Choice is Yours

Tuesday 1 June 2010, by T J S George


Jharkhand is a classic example of the damage the political class does to India. One of the richest parts of the country, it has been reduced to a cesspool of iniquity, graft, deception and crime. One statistic sums it up: in the nine years of its existence, there have been seven governments. Shibu Soren has been the Chief Minister three times—the first time for ten days in 2005, the second time for five months in 2008; the third-time drama is unfolding right before our eyes.

Shibu Soren is a star of Jharkhand. He became people’s “Guruji” when he fought the money-lenders who were terrorising the adivasis. But, with the first whiff of political power, he turned into one of the most cynical leaders of our time, accused in at least two murder cases and several graft cases including the notorious JMM bribery case for which he was jailed. He had to resign his Union Cabinet positions as well because of the criminal cases. Our politics allows such a man to manoeuvre for his son to become Chief Minister while he himself moves on to a Cabinet post in Delhi.


That is said to be one of the calculations behind the present farce. Look at the sequence. Soren is an ally of the BJP, but votes against the BJP’s instruction on the cut motion in Parliament. (This is the man’s style. When he was with the Congress, he voted against the Congress stand on the nuclear bill.)

The BJP promptly decides to withdraw support to his government. Soren then says he voted by mistake. Simultaneously his son, Hemant Soren, makes noises supportive of the BJP. Father and son say “new arrangements” will be acceptable to them. That was supposed to mean a new BJP-backed government where the younger Soren will be the Deputy Chief Minister if not the CM. Thrilled at the prospect of installing a BJP Chief Minister, the party’s man in charge announces a revised decision to “withhold” the old decision to withdraw support. There was not even a trace of shame on the face of the man in charge when he announced this crude powerplay.

Other unseen manoeuvres make it cruder still. While the BJP was prompt in moving against Soren who was only an ally, not a party member, there was no action against a party MP who absented himself on the crucial cut-motion voting. This was Sanna Pakirappa, the BJP’s own MP from Raichur. Was his disobedience condoned because he is the cousin of one of the Bellary Reddys whose money is keeping the BJP in power in Karnataka? Was it also linked in any way to the Soren camp saying that the BJP had been pressurising the Soren Government to allow the Reddy Brothers to get into the mines of Jharkhand as well? Pakirappa’s intriguing absence on voting day also led to speculation that the Congress could be striking a deal with the Reddy Brothers to destabilise the BJP. Or could it be that the Reddys are striking a deal with the Congress to regain its mining plunder rights currently in dispute?


One reality arising from it all is that the politician’s appetite is limitless. If they were only reasonably greedy, Jharkhand would have been one of the country’s most prosperous States. It ranks first in India in its deposits of iron, copper, mica, kainite and uranium. Its industrial cities are also top rankers: Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Bokaro (which has India’s largest steel plant, explosives factory and methane gas well). How bright life could have been for the people of the State!

The political class sabotaged everything in its pursuit of power and money. It does not matter how the latest crisis works out. The choice is between rogues and rascals. Victory will be meaningless because Jharkhand will lose. Which is more or less the same situation across our vast and fertile country, isn’t it?

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