The Heat wave across Jharkhand certainly had an effect on Raghubar Das’s first sleepover in a village after becoming the Chief Minister. After performing a puja at one of the 72 temples in Maluti village, located on Dumka’s border with Birbhum district of West Bengal, and addressing a janta darbar, the CM on Saturday confined himself to an air-conditioned room — there was no sitting on charpoys and sleeping in mud houses, an usual practice by politicians while visiting rural areas.
In a bid to reach out to the 76 per cent rural population of Jharkhand, Das and his 10 ministers spent the night at various villages across the state. Lois Marandi, state minister and Dumka MLA , was also present at Maluti on Saturday. Maluti, 55 km from Dumka and 18 km from Birbhum’s Rampurhat, is famous for its 16th century temples. Of the 108 temples built by the Baj Basanta dynasty, with Maluti as its capital, only 72 stand today.
Das was not the only one who was a bit edgy in the sweltering weather — in the sweaty corridors of the 18-room lodge where the Chief Minister was staying, squabbles broke out among the members of his entourage over accommodation. The noise of multiple diesel generators only made matters worse.
Outside, it was dark as Maluti witnessed yet another interminable power outage. “You see that light beyond the edge of the village? That’s Birbhum. We have to sit here and be jealous of what they have got across the stream,” said Anjan Rai, a local. Rai was part of a group of around 200 para-teachers, who had assembled here to crash the government’s biggest public relations outreach party in the last six months.
Das was clearly not in his best mood. “It is our right as members of the government to stay wherever we want to, whenever we want to. Do not look for negative things all the time,” he retorted when a reporter from a Bengali daily asked him about the reason for staying overnight in the village. The CM soon abruptly ended his impromptu press conference.
In the press meet, he also talked about a spiritual corridor with Deoghar, Chatra and Maluti as major centres. The famous Tarapith temple in Birbhum is only 20 km from the village.
Surprisingly, the BJP Chief Minister also launched an attack on JMM leader Shibu Soren, with whom he enjoys a good relationship. When senior Soren was the CM, Das was his deputy.
“We have even had a Union coal minister, but nothing has changed here,” he said. Incidentally, Dumka was the JMM’s stronghold, until Lois Marandi defeated former CM Hemant Soren in the Assembly polls last year.
As soon as Das ended his press conference, the para-teachers started raising slogans, demanding regularisation and better pay. “Five of you, inside,” Das asked the protestors who were outside the lodge gate. He promised them a detailed meeting on the issue in the first week of June.
As soon as they turned back, there were Chinese whispers outside the gate — the parateachers assumed that the CM had promised to regularise their services.
Hearing this, a woman who has cleared the Teachers’ Eligibility Test approached the CM, pleading level playing field and fresh teacher recruitments. “You had comforted the para-teachers…,” the woman began. The CM, unaware of the rumour outside the gate, replied: “I was not merely comforting them; I make promises and I keep them. Raghubar is not like other Jharkhand leaders.”