The Col­lec­tive Con­science

A tribal Ten­ancy Act back­lash and election losses force the CM into rec­on­cil­i­a­tion mode

India Today - - STATES - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

On April 30, when Jhark­hand Chief Min­is­ter Raghubar Das stood up to ad­dress the BJP’s two-day work­ing com­mit­tee meet­ing in Palamu in north­west Jhark­hand, he sur­prised ev­ery­one as he spoke of his com­mit­ment to “col­lec­tive lead­er­ship”. It was sur­pris­ing, com­ing from a man who has ruled Jhark­hand with an iron hand since he took over as CM in De­cem­ber 2014, con­fronting party col­leagues and the Op­po­si­tion alike in­stead of look­ing for a con­sen­sus on test­ing is­sues. “The cen­tral lead­er­ship, which has backed Raghubar in the past, has clearly nudged him to in­volve other BJP lead­ers in the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process,” said a se­nior BJP leader in Ranchi. Das has been told to reg­u­larly hold co­or­di­na­tion meet­ings with RSS and BJP lead­ers af­ter the cen­tral lead­er­ship took stern note of the fact that the party had “lost two of the three by­elec­tions it con­tested in the past two years”.

In fact, the record says three by­poll de­feats—if one adds the NDA loss of its Lo­hardaga seat in De­cem­ber 2015. Two days be­fore the meet, RSS na­tional joint gen­eral sec­re­tary Dat­ta­treya Hos­a­bale and other se­nior Sangh lead­ers had held a closed-door meet­ing with the chief min­is­ter. The same day they also met ex-CM Ar­jun Munda, per­haps the tallest tribal leader in the state BJP. In­ci­den­tally, Munda also met Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in Delhi re­cently.

The BJP’s de­feat in last month’s by­poll at Li­ti­para seemed a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Das’s in­abil­ity to ar­rest the tribal/non-tribal di­vide in the state that the Op­po­si­tion led by the Jhark­hand Mukti Mor­cha (JMM) has cre­ated as a re­ac­tion to the gov­ern­ment’s move to amend the tra­di­tional Ten­ancy Act, one seen as against the tribal com­mu­nity of Jhark­hand. Al­though Gover­nor Drau­padi Murmu is yet to give her as­sent to the bill and the Das gov­ern­ment has also not pushed for it since get­ting the amend­ments passed in the as­sem­bly last Novem­ber, the da­m­age has been done. Even the BJP’s top tribal lead­ers like Munda have re­fused to back Das on the is­sue, mak­ing mat­ters tough for the be­lea­guered CM.

Clearly, the BJP will not risk be­ing branded as anti-tribal in a state where over a third (28 out of 81) seats in the as­sem­bly are re­served. With just over two years to go for the as­sem­bly elec­tions, Das has a tough task ahead.

ALL ALONE CM Raghubar Das (left) and Ar­jun Munda at a meet­ing in Ranchi on May 2

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