“Jiska dar tha wahi hua (what we were apprehensive of has occurred),” a Jharkhand Congress leader said after Presidential election results emerged on Thursday. What he meant was that cross-voting for Droupadi Murmu, former Jharkhand Governor and the NDA candidate, had been abundant.
Of 79 votes polled in the 81-member Assembly — one vote was found invalid and one MLA did not turn up due to ill-health — 70 went to Murmu. Yashwant Sinha, the Opposition’s candidate, received only nine.
While JMM has 30 MLAs and BJP 26, Congress is the third-largest party in the state with 18 legislators, followed by AJSU and Independents (2 each), and RJD, CPI(ML) and NCP (1 each).
Congress spokesperson and the party’s ‘Sashaktikaran Abhiyaan’ (empowerment campaign) convenor Alok Dubey said, “At least nine votes (for Murmu) came from Congress, it seems. It is a matter of concern and we will look into it.”
A senior party leader said: “There has always been some amount of dissatisfaction in the state Congress, but that is true for all parties. But given the current situation, where Operation Lotus can be a reality in Jharkhand any time, this cross-voting needs to be assessed. Some Congress MLAs, though, may have voted for Murmu since there is no provision for whip.”
Besides, this leader pointed out, seven Congress MLAs belong to the Adivasi community, which may have weighed in their mind while voting for Murmu. This, the leader said, is “a key reason why Shibu Soren issued a diktat to all (JMM) MPs and MLAs to vote for Droupadi Murmu.”
Another veteran Congress leader did not see cross-voting per se as a problem but raised concerns over the coalition government led by Hemant Soren. “There is no leader among the (Congress) legislators who can change sides and tell other MLAs to follow him. So most of what we hear [about BJP wooing party’s legislators] is rubbish,” this leader said. “However, there has been an attempt to discredit the government by BJP, and they are doing that successfully, given how the CM has been embroiled in the mining issue and CM’s aide Pankaj Mishra was recently arrested by ED.
“In case, the Election Commission decides to disqualify the Chief Minister, we will see how things play out.”
While JMM is tight-lipped over what it is in the offing, opposition BJP has mounted an attack on the Soren government.
A state BJP worker said: “There is something brewing, but the state leadership is of the view that only two years are left for the next (Assembly) election, and there is no need to ruffle any feathers. But there is another view that the Soren government is at its lowest ebb, and something has to be done. No one has a clear idea what is cooking.”
In the last three years since the coalition government took charge, there have been multiple instances of the Congress walking a tightrope in Jharkhand politics. First, former state unit chief Ajoy Kumar resigned, accusing senior party leaders of grabbing political posts for personal benefit. In July last year, Congress MLA Naman Bixal Kongari claimed that some unknown people had approached him on multiple occasions and offered Rs 1 crore and a ministerial berth to topple the JMM-Congress-RJD government. An FIR is also being registered against three persons in the case.
One theory in the political circle is that the Soren government should give some positions to Congress MLAs or workers in 35 posts currently vacant in various Boards and Corporations in the state in a bid to settle dissatisfaction and lack of stability among Congress leaders and workers.