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Ranchi, May 20 – Can the Congress, which is a part of alliance in the Jharkhand government and overshadowed by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, repeat its 2004 show in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?
Well, for finding an answer to it, let us have an insight into the history of the state. Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar in 2000.
During that time, the National Dmocratic Alliance led by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power at the Centre. So, it is quiet obvious that entire credit for the formation of Jharkhand as a separate state goes to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Jharkhand’s forst general election since its formation, it was expected that the BJP would have a clean sweep but it got severe drubbing.
Of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, BJP won only one seat while the Congress, JMM, Rashtriya Janata Dal and CPI fought the elections together in alliance and won 13 seats.
Congress alone secured six seats during 2004 Lok Sabha elections which is the best-ever poll performance of the grand-old party in parliamentary elections in this state. It is not easy for the Congress to repeat this poll performance in 2024 general elections in the state despite being in power since 2019.
In the Jharkhand government, the Congress is the second largest party after the JMM. Four Congress MLAs are ministers in Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s Cabinet.
In the 82-member state Assembly, the Congress only has 17 seats. Prior to this, the Congress never had such a huge number of lawmakers in the state Assembly.
As per media sources, in terms of means and resources in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the grand-old party is likely to perform better in the 2024 polls than the previous general elections.
However, a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity said that the grand-old party in the Jharkhand government does not have a major say in its political affairs in the state.
The credit for all the “major decisions” taken by the state’s coalition government in the last three-and-a-half years has gone to Chief Minister Hemant Soren. Soren only takes political decisions which he and his party wanted to.
The Jharkhand Domicile Policy Bill, 1932, which proposes to define locals in state, created on November 15, 2000, on the basis of 1932 khatiyan (land records) and reserve the class III and IV jobs for them, increasing the SC/ST/OBC reservation, rules for competitive examinations held in the state or the issue of restoration of Old Pension Scheme of state government employees — all the decisions were taken as per the stand of JMM.
Although the courts have rejected some of these crucial decisions taken by the Hemant Soren government, he has been able to send across a politically strong message to his core voters.
The Congress is not in a position to publicise about its work or decisions of the Jharkhand government as its own achievements in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The reason is that the major decisions taken by the Hemant Soren government on domicile, examination rules, language, among others, were not a part of the Congress’ poll agenda.
Several Congress MLAs had also raised objections on some decisions but none of them worked.
Irrespective of the performance of the four Congress ministers, which are part of the state government in their respective departments, the party leaders and workers do not seem enthusiastic about their work. These ministers do not take much interest in organisational activities.
However, in the membership drive run by the party last year, Minister Badal Patralekh has done a commendable work in his home district. The grand-old party had announced that every Saturday, a Minister of its party would be present at the state Congress office for directly communicating with the public and would listen to their problems. But this announcement was unsuccessful at the grassroots level. It was also decided that the four ministers would visit six districts each every month. It started last year, but after the second month, the ministers became complacent.
At present, Congress has only one Lok Sabha seat, Chaibasa, from where Geeta Koda is MP. Political analysts are of the view that if the party wanted she could have been projected as a powerful political face in tribal-dominated Jharkhand, but that did not happen.
Bandhu Tirkey is a powerful Congress leader in Jharkhand who could be projected as a tribal face. He is the working Congress president of the state committee. Among the old tribal faces, Pradeep Balmuchu has been made the national president of the tribal Congress a few months ago. Sukhdeo Bhagat is also counted among powerful Congress leaders in the state. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the party is able to utilise them in the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
By increasing the responsibility given to Congress leaders like former Union ministers Subodh Kant Sahay, Alamgir Alam, Ajoy Kumar, Rameshwar Oraon, Banna Gupta, Madhu Koda at the organisational level, the party can hope to create a positive atmosphere to some extent in the state.
A group of second and third-rung Congress leaders are disenchanted with the party for various reasons. These party leaders want a better position in the party’s state committee or in various state government boards or corporations which are yet to be formed.
Alok Dubey, Rajesh Gupta Chhotu, Kishore Shahdev, Sadhu Sharan Gop are some of the Congress leaders who have been suspended from the party for making statements against State Congress President Rajesh Thakur.
However, the party has ramped up its preparations at the organisational level ahead of the upcoming elections after the recent victory of Congress in Karnataka Assembly elections. This victory in Karnataka may not be directly related with the political situation of Jharkhand, but it has lifted the spirit of Congress leaders and workers. The party leadership is trying to motivate its cadre by the recent poll victory in Karnataka.
The party has started speeding up its organisational programmes regarding the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. State Congress in-charge Avinash Pandey visits Jharkhand in every one-and-a-half month. For the first time after six years, the party has constituted the state committee in December, 2022 by inducting a total of 197 leaders in it.
The Congress state president said the party has entrusted responsibility to various state party representatives in all 329 blocks of the state to galvanise the party organisation at the booth level.
“I am myself visiting all the districts one by one. Four ministers in the state government are handling the responsibility of six districts each.”
All the general secretaries of the State party Committee have been entrusted with the responsibility of intensifying organisational activities in each district while secretaries are given charge of each Assembly constituency. Committees have also been constituted by the grand-old party at the block and divisional levels. There are nearly 30,000 party office bearers in these committees. Work is underway on a plan to identify 10 youth for each booth.