For the first time since the formation of Jharkhand in 2000, the state will have a non-tribal as its chief minister. The BJP’s choice of Raghubar Das, a five-time MLA and a former deputy CM, was arguably necessitated by the defeat of former CM Arjun Munda. It also draws, perhaps, from the party’s attempt to consolidate its non-tribal vote base in the state. Whatever the reason, Das must seize the opportunity and address the challenge: to run a clean and efficient administration which also reaches out to tribals. Jharkhand’s new CM must dispel any notion that he represents only a segment of society.
Though the numerous tribal communities together constitute only 32 per cent of the state’s population, political parties have always privileged tribal identity over other criteria when it came to choosing the CM. By that token, the identity issue could be said to have run out of its charge in this election — four former chief ministers, all tribals and from different political parties, lost. The underlying impulse for the creation of Jharkhand was not merely to give representation to tribals in government but to achieve an inclusive and effective administration that would also address their specific needs. The Jharkhand movement — and the statehood demand — that gained popular support in the 1970s did not limit itself to the assertion of tribal identity but campaigned against usury, dowry, alcoholism, superstitions. Its emancipatory agenda had a strong economic and reformist content. The decline of the JMM, which emerged out of the mass movement, began when the party was seen to ignore the original vision that led to the call for a separate state and concentrated its energies, instead, on playing up the tribal-non-tribal divide.
The challenge for the BJP-AJSU government is to focus on governance in a state that has recorded impressive growth in recent years, mainly due to the mining boom, but whose rulers stand guilty of frittering away the gains, and promoting corruption and crony capitalism. The new government needs to build a stable and predictable political and economic environment in which to capitalise on Jharkhand’s rich mineral resources and utilise the revenue to build physical infrastructure and improve healthcare and education. The widespread underdevelopment has allowed a criminal form of Maoist politics to flourish, which threatens social peace and economic growth. The Raghubar Das dispensation must balance the demands of industry with the needs of the poor and middle classes while advancing a social pact that addresses the concerns of both tribals and non-tribals.