JMM’s Hemant Soren emerges from his father’s shadow3 min read . Updated: 24 Dec 2014, 12:42 AM IST
The party's election campaign in Jharkhand promoted the former chief minister as the face of the party to attract the youth
New Delhi: Campaign posters featuring outgoing Jharkhand chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren stood out in the entire campaign for the state assembly elections in the state. They depicted the bespectacled Soren in smart, brightly coloured T-shirts, not the kurta-pyjama that’s favoured by politicians in the state.
The strategy of the JMM was clear—it was promoting the 39-year-old Soren, son of veteran Jharkhand politician Shibu Soren, as the new face of the party in the hope that it would attract young voters and help its bid for power in a state that has had nine governments since it was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
In the event, the strategy didn’t help. The JMM ended up as the second largest party in the assembly, behind the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), although it won one more seat than the 18 it did in 2009.
With his father and political patriarch Shibu Soren in poor health and the party facing allegations of corruption, Hemant Soren bet on himself to spearhead the JMM’s election campaign.
Born and brought up in undivided Bihar, Hemant Soren went to school in Patna. The Jharkhand government’s website says that Soren studied at the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, but he has not added that information to the educational qualifications mentioned in his election affidavit.
Hemant Soren was pushed to the political limelight after the sudden death in 2009 of his elder brother Durga Soren, who had been seen as the natural inheritor of Shibu Soren’s political legacy.
He served as a Rajya Sabha member from 24 June 2009 to 4 January 2010 and as deputy chief minister for more than two years during Arjun Munda-led government from 11 September 2010 to 8 January 2013 before taking over as Jharkhand’s fifth chief minister in 2012.
According to data from the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), Hemant Soren declared assets worth more than ₹ 3.5 crore in his latest election affidavit; he also cited four criminal cases against him.
Known to be an introvert, Hemant Soren is fond of sports and electronic gadgets.
“Not many know but he loves to cook in his free time and considers it as a great stressbuster. He loves watching and playing cricket, but is even more interested in playing badminton and table tennis. He is very fond of electronic gadgets and specially hand-held devices like iPad and smartphones, and loves going out with his family," a person who has worked with him closely said on condition of anonymity.
In the state elections, Hemant Soren played a key role in strategizing the party’s campaign.
“The entire campaign was handled by him. In the last one month, he has visited nearly every constituency in the state as against the BJP which had brought most of its cabinet ministers and chief ministers from Chhattisgarh and other important states in the campaigning. This time, Hemant Soren tried to take most of the burden off his father so that Shibu Soren gets proper rest," a senior leader of the JMM said on condition of anonymity.
The JMM may not have won, but the elections have brought Hemant Soren out of the shadow of his father and positioned him to play a bigger role in Jharkhand politics, analysts said.
“If you look at the JMM government in last one year or so and the election results, then one can say that anti-incumbency has not hit them as much, and for that Hemant Soren deserves credit," said Birendra Kumar Sinha, who teaches political science at St Xavier’s College in Ranchi.
“In next few years, one may find him establishing himself as a strong leader with vision who has a mass following. Age is on his side..," Sinha added.
Prashant K. Nanda contributed to this story.