New Delhi: The fate of the Jharkhand assembly hangs in the balance with governor Syed Ahmed not indicating whether he will heed the recommendation of the outgoing coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its dissolution.
The government fell as it lost its majority in the house after the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) withdrew support.
Constitutional experts said the governor doesn’t have to follow the departing cabinet’s advice as chief minister Arjun Munda has handed in his resignation to the governor. Political observers said, however, that this could lead to another “uncomfortable and unprincipled” coalition in the state.
The fall of the Munda government is a blow to the BJP that recently lost the elections in Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP government in Karnataka, the only one state ruled by it in the south, is also facing threats of instability with former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa considering withdrawing support. Yeddyurappa, who separated from the BJP, heads the Karnataka Janata Party splinter group.
Political observers said developments in Jharkand were a setback to the BJP’s attempts to emerge as an an alternative to the beleaguered United Progressive Alliance government at the centre.
The state government fell on Tuesday after JMM chief Shibu Soren informed the governor about the withdrawal of support. Soon after that, the cabinet decided to recommend dissolution of the state assembly to the governor. The cabinet meeting was attended only by ministers belonging to the BJP and its ally, the Janata Dal (United).
Subhash Kashyap, constitutional expert, pointed out that the governor usually accepts the cabinet’s recommendation as long as it hasn’t lost its majority on the floor of the House.
“However, in this case, the chief minister has submitted his resignation too,” Kashyap said. “So the governor has the option to seek an alternative. He can ask the House to meet again.”
The governor has asked Munda to continue as caretaker chief minister until a final decision is taken, a PTI report said.
The 28-month-old coalition broke up because of a dispute over the chief ministerial post. JMM said the two parties had agreed to share the post, with one party’s candidate heading the government for half the five-year term and a nominee from the other one for the second half. The BJP denied any such pact.
The JMM wanted Hemant Soren, deputy chief minister and son of former Union minister Shibu Soren, to become chief minister. The JMM has 18 legislators in the 81-member state assembly and the BJP and its allies have 27. The Congress has 13 state legislators.
After the meeting on Tuesday morning in state capital Ranchi, Munda told PTI that the cabinet decided to recommend dissolution of the state assembly to prevent any “horse trading-like situation”, referring to instances of political parties bribing legislators to switch loyalties.
Munda said the decision was taken as no national party had openly come forward to provide an alternative government in the wake of the JMM’s announcement to pull out of the government.
The outgoing government was the eighth one in 12 years in Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar in 2000. Power has mainly rotated between two leaders, Soren and Munda, during that time, although Babulal Marandi and Madhu Koda were also chief ministers for brief periods.
Political observers said the state would slip into political instability again if the parties are given another chance to form an alternative instead of fresh elections being held.
“If they (parties) form an alternative, it will be an unprincipled and uncomfortable alliance. What we had in the past 28 months also was not an NDA government but an opportunistic alliance. People are fed up with this. The state should go for elections now,” said Ramesh Sharan, a professor of economics at Ranchi University. The NDA, or National Democratic Alliance, is the BJP-led opposition grouping.