It may only be a coincidence, but when the BJP begins to put into practice what its leaders call the Chhattisgarh model of governance in Jharkhand, its leader should be a man whose parents were born in that state.
Raghubar Das is set to head the 10th Jharkhand government since the state’s formation in 2000; he will also be the first non-adivasi to occupy the position as the BJP seeks to emulate its installation of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh – with 30.6 per cent adivasis in the general population – in Jharkhand, which has 26.2 per cent adivasis.
Raghubar Das was born on May 3, 1955 in Jamshedpur to the late Chawan Das, a labourerr at Tata Steel. Das himself would work for what was TISCO from 1986; he is currently on special leave without pay and lives at a company quarters on Agrico Chowk in the city.
Das, who attended Jamshedpur’s Bhalubasa Harijan School – coincidentally the same institution attended by former CM Arjun Munda – has an LLB from the city’s Cooperative College.
He was arrested during Jayaprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution movement and was later associated with Baldev Singh, a Jamshedpur-based Congress leader. Das, of the Teli – an OBC caste, came into political prominence as the election agent of Janata-and-later-BJP leader Dinanath Pandey, in 1980. He then shifted his allegiance to Mrigendra Pratap Singh, who would go on to become the state’s first Finance minister.
Das then went on to climb almost every rung in the BJP’s organisational ladder: 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 previous assembly elections, in 2005 and ’09.
By 1995, Das had grown big enough for his party to deny three-time-legislator Pandey a ticket and offer it to him. He has not lost in Jamshedpur East since, winning five on the trot – his margin of 70,157 was the second-highest in the state this election.
Das also served with three of the five others to become Jharkhand’s CM: he handled the Labour portfolio under Babulal Marandi after Jharkhand was formed on November 15, 2000, was Urban Development minister in the 2005-’06 Arjun Munda government and was deputy to CM Shibu Soren during 2009-’10.
Das’s relationship with Shibu Soren and the JMM is excellent; he retains a direct line to the senior Soren and often talks to him. In that respect, he has an edge over Arjun Munda, whose relationship with the JMM – the main Opposition party – is riddled with hostility.
Though not considered a mass leader like Arjun Munda – Jamshedpur East is considered a BJP stronghold – or a policy wonk like Saryu Rai, Das is known to be a hard worker. He is considered approachable – a quality which helps him listen to what the grassroots workers think. At the same time, the image of him in bureaucratic circles is of being a strict person – someone who can be demanding to the point of being obstinate at times.
More than the JMM, Das’s equations with senior BJP leaders Arjun Munda and Saryu Rai will be watched closely in the next few months. The three have often engaged in mutually-assured-destructive one-upmanship in their question to conquer Jamshedpur, which is often thought to be one of the reasons that led to Munda’s defeat from Kharsawan this time. Das, who has barely concealed his chief ministerial ambitions, have campaigned long and hard for Jharkhand to have a non-adivasi CM.
According to his affidavit, Das has seven cases against him and has mostly been charged with defacement of property, arising out of leading public agitations. He has also declared movable assets worth Rs. 41,64,016 against his name and a total of Rs. 11,08,040 against wife Rukmani Devi – whom he married in 1978 – and son Lalit Kumar’s names. Das, who usually keeps his family largely out of the limelight, also has a daughter named Renu Sahu. He is the fourth of six siblings and has three elder sisters and two brothers.