Bihar Redux: Does Champai Soren's 'dissent' mirror Jitan Manjhi’s stand?

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) JMM President Hemant Soren was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Jharkhand for the third time on Thursday after being released from jail on bail.

Champai Soren, a longstanding JMM loyalist, stepped aside to facilitate this transition. He had assumed office just five months ago when Hemant Soren was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an alleged money laundering case related to a land scam.

However, the transition was not without hurdles.

It required significant effort from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) strategists and Hemant Soren to persuade Champai Soren to step down.

According to sources, Champai Soren reluctantly resigned on Wednesday after being taken aback by the party's decision. He reportedly had concerns about being replaced as the Chief Minister months before the upcoming Assembly elections in Jharkhand.

Sources indicate that Champai Soren was opposed to the haste with which the change was being made. The unusually lengthy meeting, during which Champai Soren was convinced to resign, reflects the internal dynamics within the JMM at that time.

The recent events bring back memories of a similar incident in Bihar in 2015, involving Jitan Ram Manjhi and Nitish Kumar.

Back then, Manjhi, a minister under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, took over as the CM after the latter resigned following his party's poor show in the 2014 general elections.

However, when the JD(U) sought to reclaim the Chief Minister's post, Manjhi resisted, leading to a dramatic standoff. Eventually, Manjhi resigned, allowing Nitish Kumar to return as the head of the government. Subsequently, Manjhi formed his own party, the Hindustani Awam Morcha, and allied with the BJP-led NDA for the 2015 Assembly elections.

Now, political circles are questioning whether Champai Soren is following a path similar to that of Manjhi.

Observers are concerned that Champai Soren's discontent over the way he was removed may have negative implications for the JMM in Jharkhand, especially with elections looming in a few months.

Additionally, there is a possibility that Hemant Soren's political rivals could exploit Champai Soren's dissatisfaction to their own advantage.

The recent leadership change in Ranchi has provided the opposition BJP with ammunition to criticise the JMM as a family-centric party.

Babulal Marandi, former CM and current Jharkhand BJP chief, said the decision indicated that tribal leaders like Champai Soren were merely functional for the party, hinting at ‘nepotism’ within the JMM, which is dominated by the Soren family.

“The removal of a senior tribal leader from the post of Chief Minister by the JMM and the Congress is deeply distressing,” Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP's Jharkhand co-incharge, posted on X.

These statements carry a clear political message for Champai Soren and the entire tribal community.

Meanwhile, Champai Soren is expected to be included in the Hemant Soren government as a minister. He holds considerable popularity in the Kolhan region, which sends 14 members to the Jharkhand assembly.


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