The politics in Jharkhand has taken a curious turn with the chief minister, Hemant Soren trying to burnish his relation with the Governor and the judiciary consistently busy adopting an aggressive stance towards the BJP and Modi government.
Only a couple of days back Hemant was quite aggressive towards the Modi government and BJP for using the ED to harass him and even had thrown challenge at the top of voice; “ I am not afraid of facing the Enforcement Directorate” has suddenly resorted to the strategy of buying peace.
Three days after his open attack on ED for issuing summons to him seeking his appearance at its regional office in Ranchi in connection with a money-laundering case linked to alleged illegal mining in the state, he announced clearance of number of proposals which were meant for the Governor, judges and those who matter in the administration. Of course these were not of the nature of gifts. In fact these have given rise to intrigues in the political circle. His opponents nevertheless see these as part of his defensive mechanism.
The Cabinet approved proposals for purchasing cars for judges and ministers — 21 Skoda cars for judges to the tune of Rs 9.03 crore, an Audi Q7 worth Rs 1.25 crore for the CM’s cavalcade, and Rs 4 crore for 25 Mahindra Bolero vehicles for Cabinet ministers and for the Assembly Speaker. On October 21, the Cabinet, in its fifth meeting since August 25, cleared a Raj Bhavan request to have the six “expensive” vehicles in the Governor’s cavalcade insured.
In its attempt to reach out to the backward caste people, Hemant government also increased the reservation quota from 14 per cent to 27 per cent for Other Backward Caste (OBC) communities, who make up 46% per cent of the population. His government has also launched the populist scheme “Sarkar Apke Dwar”
The Hemant cabinet at its meeting on October 10 cleared proposals on cars for judges and ministers and six vehicles in the Governor’s cavalcade. The decision was pending since August 25, when the Election Commission sent its opinion to Governor Ramesh Bais on his possible disqualification over the mining case. The most visible and important programme of Hemant government has been Sarkar Aapke Dwar, a programme aimed at providing government services to beneficiaries in more than 4,300 panchayats. Hemant has been helming the project, making it a point to visit at least one panchayat in each district daily.
Surprisingly the Calcutta High Court only recently stopped a similar programme “Duare Sarkar” of Mamata government. The programme had proved to be quite popular and had helped the Trinamool Congress (TMC) score a massive win in last year’s Assembly elections. As it was attracting peoples’ attention and sympathy a person supposed to be a BJP cadre moved the Calcutta High Court which declared it legally void after holding it to be “ultra vires to the National Food Security Act, 2013”. The petitioner had also alleged since people were thronging the camps their lives were endangered due to Covid.
Soren used the Sarkar Aapke Dwar programme primarily to hit out at the BJP at the Centre. In a strategic move, inaugurating the second phase of the programme Hemant dropped sufficient indication that he plans to use the common people of the state, especially the tribal, to act as the vanguard of any movement to be launched against the dirty design of the ED. He asked the beneficiaries, 30 lakh farmers among them, not to be scared of the central government’s design and respond to the ED action politically.
The purchase for the cars for the Governor’s office was cleared as “There was a requisition from the Governor’s office to insure the vehicles. There was no such provision in place earlier because the government usually took care of the maintenance and repairs of the vehicles when needed. But the Governor wanted the vehicles to be insured as these were expensive, so we made an exception.”
The party sources maintain; “Since the Governor is yet to make the EC recommendation public, the CM is utilising the time to go to the people. Every day, the CM himself goes to one panchayat. He has been repeatedly telling people how governance was poor in the last 20 years until the JMM-led government took over. He talks about how, if earlier women had to run to the block offices for pension, the government’s universal pension scheme has benefited them. We are seeing an aggressive CM, someone who is not afraid of capitalising on an adverse situation.”
Further, in a strategic manner Hemant has been preparing the tribals of Jharkhand to get ready for a protracted struggle on land question and domicile issue which the BJP has been using to its advantage to strengthen and empower the non tribals, its core support base. In fact Hemant has called upon the Adivasis and Moolvasis to unite. He has also made it explicit that 1932 would be the cut-off date for domicile (a sensitive issue in Jharkhand which led to the resignation of the state first CM, Babulal Marandi), increasing the reservation quota from 14% to 27% for Other Backward Caste (OBC) communities, and announcing Rs 3,500 per farmer family as drought relief fund.
Among other measures taken with an eye on the rural population and the youth are the ‘Mukhyamantri Gram Gaadi Yojna’, as part of which concessions and tax benefits will be given to private players operating public transport in rural areas, and the decision to build a library with a capacity for 5,000 people at Ranchi University. Proposal to make eggs a daily part of the mid-day meal menu, another long-standing demand by food security experts in the state was also cleared.
It is the political compulsion to make the people remain with him that Hemant has undertaken a number of populist programme. But his main thrust continues to be the attack on Modi’s manoeuvrings and on ED. With his arrest appearing to be imminent, Hemant has launched an acerbic onslaught on ED. He accused the ED “of probing a case on Opposition’s request. I too have been summoned. I am not afraid of facing them. If the ED can summon leaders of the stature of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi then what is the big deal about a chief minister being summoned?”
The Modi government was put on mat with the CBI officials arriving in the car of a Jharkhand BJP leader to raid and search the residences of close aides of Hemant. Ironically the CBI and ED have been extending the scope and space of the probe against him. What started as probe into NREGA irregularities has now acquired the character of corruption in mining lease. This purely aims at over throwing the tribal chief minister and installing a BJP government. Earlier the BJP leaders, particularly Amit Shah had tried to use his “Operation Lotus” design. But the cash offer was badly exposed and a number of BJP operators were arrested.
Nonetheless Hemant vowed; “I will fight to the last and expose them, “I am not afraid of probe agencies as long as I have the blessing of the masses. Har jung ladenge, har jung jitenge (We will fight all battles and win)”. He reiterated; “The Opposition feel that they can tarnish my image by misusing the federal agency. However, their wish will not be fulfilled. We will give a befitting reply to all their conspiracies. Even the governor is siding with the Opposition. He is keeping silent on the Election Commission’s opinion but speaking to reporters about ‘atom bombs’”. Recently the ED arrested one of his close aides. (IPA Service)