In Jharkhand, Trinamool pushes for space, dents JMM

In its bid to emerge as the largest regional party in the 16th Lok Sabha, the All India Trinamool Congress is making an aggressive push into Jharkhand.

Even before the formation of its state unit, the party has captured its first legislators by convincing two single-MLA-parties to merge with it, besides getting Shibu Soren’s younger brother and JMM’s Bokaro district president Lalu Soren on board.

After Bandhu Tirkey and Chamra Linda — the party’s candidates for Ranchi and Lohardaga, respectively — the name of almost every leader likely to be ignored by their respective parties has been associated with the TMC — Dadai Dubey and Stephen Marandi of the Congress, and Paulus Surin of the JMM among them. While some of these are likely to stay with their parties, the TMC does not deny being in talks with them. Meanwhile, parties are awaiting the TMC’s second list, expected Sunday.

All this, from a party that was derided for a poorly-attended rally in Ranchi on January 11. The party’s Rajya Sabha MP K D Singh, who has since resigned from his Jharkhand seat, was the main organiser.

The TMC appointed Dilip Chatterjee as the state convener on February 18. “The Ranchi rally was not very important. What mattered was a February 8 rally in Dhanbad, which was well attended,” Chatterjee said. The TMC now has functioning units in Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Bokaro districts. “We want to contest all 14 LS seats and have finalised names for five-six. For the state (elections scheduled for 2015), we will have candidates for all seats,” he said.

Before TMC, Chatterjee was JMM general secretary. A former JMM central committee member said his presence could draw JMM members to the TMC.

The TMC, then, could be the first beneficiary of an anti-Hemant Soren feeling in the JMM. There are indications that grassroots leaders, including adivasi leaders, could move to the TMC. “This morning, I got a call from an important functionary in Ramgarh district unit of JMM, asking for a TMC leader’s number,” said an individual who handles media relations for a potential LS candidate. Shibu Soren’s elder brother Rajaram Soren, too, has indicated he would not mind moving to the TMC.

The JMM comes in the TMC’s firing line as the former’s stronghold, the Santhal Pargana region, is contiguous with West Bengal. TMC made its first prominent recruitment in the state there five years ago, inducting anti-displacement activist and party’s state women’s unit convenor Muni Hansda from Dumka. She could be the TMC’s candidate from the constituency currently held by Shibu Soren. However, she reportedly faces competition from Lalu Soren.

The TMC’s strong bid could have an effect in Assam, where the party is trying to gain influence among the tea tribes — originally from Jharkhand, among whom the JMM has supporters.

This scattergun approach, however, has resulted in an explosive mix: Muni Hansda, a crusader against mining companies; Lalu Soren, who is Shibu’s brother; Bandhu Tirkey, a minister in Madhu Koda cabinet, facing charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Chamra Linda, declared an absconder from 2008 to 2013 in an assault case. There are also reports that Geeta Koda, wife of the former CM, could join TMC.

Senior JMM leader Hemlal Murmu resigns

Ranchi: With senior leader Hemlal Murmu resigning from the party on Friday, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) has gained a Youth Congress member but lost a sitting MP and MLA in the past three days.

The JMM had inducted Vijay Hansda, son of the late Congress leader Thomas Hansda, on Wednesday with the intention of giving him the ticket for Rajmahal Lok Sabha seat, won twice by his father. The Congress protested, with Pradesh President Sukhdeo Bhagat meeting CM Hemant Soren the same day.

On Friday, JMM’s Barhait MLA Murmu, who won from Rajmahal in 2004, resigned from the party. He is reportedly in talks with the BJP. “I have not yet decided as to whether I should contest or which party to join. I will talk to my supporters to decide my future,” he said.

Murmu, a minister in the 2010-2013 Arjun Munda Cabinet, had been unhappy ever since Soren refused to induct him in his council of ministers.

On Thursday, outgoing Palamu MP Kameshwar Baitha had left the JMM and joined the BJP. Baitha, a former Maoist, claimed he had left on his own, though the JMM said it did not want him around anymore.