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In September this year, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda was disqualified from contesting elections for three years. File photo: Hindustan Times
In September this year, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda was disqualified from contesting elections for three years. File photo: Hindustan Times

The rise and fall of Madhu Koda

From the chief minister's office to the four walls of a prison, it has been quite a journey for Madhu Koda who only wanted to serve his country

It could be the script of a Bollywood production, except that in the case of former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, truth is truly stranger than fiction. He was in his thirties when he became chief minister of one of a newly carved state and perhaps the first independent MLA to ever rise to the post. He overcame tremendous odds to get where he wanted but in the end the downfall was as swift as his rise.

Koda’s beginnings in life were as humble as they can get. His father was a small farmer and that was pretty much the decided path for the son until his desire to “serve the country" got the better of him. In an interview to News 18 network in 2009, his father Rasika Koda said his son’s decision to join politics was a “mistake."

“I had tried to convince him to not join politics but he said he wanted to serve the country…how could I stop him from doing so?" The jury is still out on just how much Koda did serve the country but in just two years time (from 2006 to 2008, when he was the CM of the state) he did manage to serve his own interests very well.

The former CM was convicted in Delhi on Wednesday of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption in a coal block allocation case. Along with Koda, former coal secretary Harish Chandra Gupta and former Jharkhand chief secretary A.K. Basu were also found guilty. All were found guilty of allocating a coal block in Jharkhand’s Rajhara to Vini Iron Steel Udyog Limited (VISUL) in an illegal manner.

This case is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg-- which is the coal mining scam. The firm (VISUL) had been refused a block by the Jharkhand government and the ministry of steel but Gupta had reportedly withheld this fact from PM Manmohan Singh who was handling the coal ministry himself. The Comptroller Auditor General, in 2012, had revealed in an audit that for more than a decade, mining rights had been allocated to private players at throwaway prices. The allocations were subsequently cancelled.

Corruption scams in politics have long failed to shock the Indian voter but even by their cynical standards, the coal scam was a bit too brazen. It threatened the personal integrity of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even as the UPA government at the centre grappled with the accusations of yet another scam on its watch.

Koda began his journey in politics in the year 2000 when he was elected to the Bihar legislature from Jagannathpur. This was on a BJP ticket. Later that year Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar and Koda found himself with the portfolio of minister of state, rural engineering organisation. Babulal Marandi was the chief minister of the state. Marandi couldn’t hold onto his post for very long as there was internal revolt within the party and by 2003, Arjun Munda was sworn in as the new CM. Koda was made minister of panchayati raj.

However in 2005 the BJP refused to give him a ticket and Koda decided to contest as an Independent from his previous constituency. He won the election and entered the legislature only to support the BJP-led NDA though it was Shibu Soren’s Congress-JMM alliance which was invited to form the government. Soren’s government failed to win the vote of confidence and Munda formed the government. Koda was rewarded for his loyalty with a very plush portfolio--the ministry of mining geology and cooperatives.

But within a year Koda and three other independent candidates withdrew support and brought about the downfall of the Munda government. Koda and four other MLAs--Kamlesh Singh, Bandhu Tirkey, Enos Ekka and Sudesh Mahto-- had collectively come to be known as the G-5, a group of five independents on whom the government was dependent. They commanded a lot of power and it came across in every dealing with the government.

After the government’s collapse, Koda emerged as a consensus candidate, who with the backing of the UPA, formed the new government though the same game of musical chairs followed in 2008 when JMM withdrew its support and Koda had to resign. But by this time the mines had been allocated and the money made. Koda was arrested in 2009 when the ED found discrepancies in his finances. The CBI and ED claimed that Koda took bribes for allocating coal and mining blocks during his tenure as CM. A 2013 report by The Times of India alleged that Koda and his associates had amassed a fortune in excess of Rs4000 crore.

After his arrest it has only been downhill for Koda who lost the 2014 Jharkhand assembly election. In September this year, he was disqualified from contesting elections for three years. From the chief minister’s office to the four walls of a prison, it has been quite a journey for a man who only wanted to serve his country.

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