After being nominated by his peers earlier in the day to be the leader of the BJP’s legislative party, Raghubar Das met the Jharkhand Governor on Friday evening and staked claim to form the government, which would make him the state’s first non-Adivasi chief minister.
By nominating Das (59), the BJP seems to be sending a message that it is willing to consolidate the Hindu vote bank rather than woo tribals, much like the Chhattisgarh model.
When he takes oath on December 28, Das will be the 10th CM of Jharkhand and the sixth individual to ascend to the chair. A national vice-president of the BJP, he won from the Jamshedpur East constituency for the fifth consecutive time.
Das’s name as the leader of the legislative party was announced around 12.30 pm after a brief meeting at the party headquarters. BJP ally AJSU Party too had a meeting later in the day, formally declaring support for the party and nominating Chandra Prakash Choudhary as its leader in the House. The alliance has a total of 42 legislators the 81-member Assembly.
By having a CM in place swiftly — counting of votes was held in Jharkhand on December 23 — the BJP ended speculation about any rifts within the party, as well as about the future of former CM Arjun Munda, who lost from Kharsawan. Munda, who initially considered contesting a bypoll, held a press conference on Thursday to declare that he was not in the race to be CM.
Munda’s announcement came after BJP president Amit Shah let Jharkhand-based leaders know in no uncertain terms that Das was his preference. After the party’s parliamentary party meeting on December 24, Das was asked to get all other prospective candidates on board.
Accordingly, he met Munda the same day and former speaker C P Singh and Saryu Rai on Thursday.
At the meeting of the legislative party meeting on Friday, Das’s name was proposed by Khunti legislator Nilkant Singh Munda, currently the senior most Adivasi legislator of the BJP who is considered close to Arjun Munda, and was supported by Singh and Rai.
Veteran, a hard taskmaster
Raghubar Das, set to become Jharkhand’s first non-tribal chief minister, has climbed almost every rung in the BJP’s organisational ladder during his 34-year-long association with the party.
Considered approachable, a quality which helps him listen to views of grassroots workers, Das’s image among bureaucrats is that of a hard task master — someone who can be demanding to the point of being obstinate.
Born on May 3, 1955, in Jamshedpur to late Chawan Das, a labourer at Tata Steel, the CM-designate has been associated with the firm since 1986. He is currently on special leave without pay and stays at the company quarters.
Das, a law graduate, entered politics with Jayaprakash Narayan’s “Total Revolution movement”. A Teli by caste, he emerged in political circles as an election agent of Janata-and-later-BJP leader Dinanath Pandey in 1980.
Das has been district general secretary of the BJYM, mandal president of the BJP and district general secretary of the party before becoming state president twice and overseeing the two Assembly elections, in 2005 and 2009.
By 1995, he had grown enough in stature that his party denied a ticket to three-time MLA Pandey and offered him an electoral opportunity. He has not lost in Jamshedpur-East since, winning five on the trot. This time his margin of victory was 70,157 —the second-highest in the state.
He also served as a minister under three CMs: he handled the Labour portfolio under Babulal Marandi in 2000, was urban development minister between 2005 and 2006 in Arjun Munda government, and served as deputy to Shibu Soren from 2009 to 2010.
Das’s relationship with the Sorens and the JMM has been excellent. In that respect, he has an edge over Munda, whose relationship with the JMM, the main Opposition party, is riddled with hostility.
According to his affidavit, Das has seven cases against him and mostly of defacement of property, arising out of leading public agitations. He has movable assets worth Rs 41,64,016 against his name and Rs 11,08,040 against wife Rukmani and son Lalit Kumar.