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Shrinking Political Space for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha

An inability to command support from varied sections of the electorate, a fragmentation of support among the adivasis and youth disenchantment have together contributed to the decline of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand. This is despite years of mobilisation by the organisation for the cause of a separate state and greater political representation for the marginalised people.


In this context it is crucial to analyse

Shrinking Political Space for

and understand the electoral downslide of the JMM and to fathom the causes responthe Jharkhand Mukti Morcha sible for the party’s shrinking political space in Jharkhand. This article traces the roots of the JMM, its emergence as a social Sanjay Kumar, Praveen Rai movement, entry into formal politics, its

An inability to command support from varied sections of the electorate, a fragmentation of support among the adivasis and youth disenchantment have together contributed to the decline of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand. This is despite years of mobilisation by the organisation for the cause of a separate state and greater political representation for the marginalised people.

Sanjay Kumar ( is with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi and Praveen Rai (praveenrai@ is with the Lokniti programme, CSDS, New Delhi.

he May 2009 Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand witnessed a further decline in the political fortunes of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the state. The JMM managed to win only two Lok Sabha seats, half of what it won in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004 losing about 5% of its vote share in the state. The electoral downslide of JMM that started during the assembly elections in 2005 could not be arrested resulting in yet another setback for the party in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. This is a crucial period in the JMM’s history of electoral politics and can be described as turning of a full circle in its political journey that started in the movement for a separate Jharkhand state after India’s independence.

The JMM’s roots can be traced to the movement for a separate Jharkhand state for the tribal region in the 1950s. The movement witnessed an ideological shift in the 1960s and 1970s with demands for regional autonomy and development in the tribal region. The JMM was formally launched as a political party in 1984 and entered into electoral politics, but it soon split into two political parties, JMM (Soren) and JMM (Marandi). As a result of splintering in the Jharkhand movement a large number of parties existed during the 1980s based on Jharkhandi identity in the state. The 1990s saw the beginning of the era of coalition politics, which also marked the revival for the JMM (Soren). During the 1990 assembly elections, JMM (Soren) polled a little more than 3% votes. The JMM (Soren) witnessed a similar electoral performance during the 1995 and 2000 assembly elections. Over the last five decades, in its long journey the JMM had various political ups and down, shift in alliances, merger and splits, government formations culminating in the fall of Shibu Soren’s government in Jharkhand in January 2009 and the Lok Sabha election debacle recently.

august 15, 2009

performance in electoral competitions and the reasons for its failure to occupy the centre stage of politics in the state. It is broadly divided into five sections: the first provides the roots of JMM in Jharkhand movement that began as a sub-national movement for the formation of a separate state based on the issue of tribal distinctiveness. It also traces the emergence of the JMM as a social reform movement between 1970 and 1983 when its focus shifted to political education for ending all forms of prevailing exploitations and toward demand for autonomy of the region based on militant tactics and direct action. The second section details the birth of JMM as a political party in 1984 and its entry into formal politics. The JMM asserted the Jharkhandi identity as the basis of electoral competition and spearheaded the movement for creation of a separate state of Jharkhand. The third section assesses the electoral participation and performance of JMM in state assembly and Lok Sabha elections. It also tries to analyse the popular choice of political parties and leaders and the role played by the JMM in creation of a separate state based on public opinion. The fourth section tries to assess the support base of JMM in Jharkhand and shift in political loyalties of voters based on time series data. And the fifth section tries to qualitatively analyse the reasons for the failure of JMM in asserting Jharkhandi identity and in holding centre stage in state politics.

1 1970-83: Demand for Tribal Autonomy

The roots of JMM can be traced to the years between 1950 and 1970 when the Jharkhand movement began with the formation of Jharkhand Party (JHP) in 1950 demanding creation of a separate state. JHP was the first political party in south Bihar to unite the tribals and non-tribals under the regional “Jharkhandi” identity representing all the inhabitants in the tribal areas of south Bihar. The results of the first general elections in

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1952 showed the JHP at the peak of its popularity when it was able to secure largescale tribal as well as non-tribal support (Prakash 2001). After the first general election in 1952, the JHP esta blished itself as the dominant political party in south Bihar and submitted a memorandum with the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) demanding the creation of a new state on the basis of economic, socio-political and cultural uniqueness of the region.

The SRC did not take cultural distinctiveness of the region into consideration and the claim of the Jharkhandis for a separate state was not accepted due to the multiplicity of tribal languages in south Bihar. The failure of the JHP in convincing the SRC reduced its popularity and support base in the region. As result of this the JHP merged with the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1963. The merger of JHP with the Congress encouraged more factionalism than consensus (Jha 1972). Factionalism was the single most important factor in the undermining of popular support for the Jharkhandi political parties and shifting of electoral support to the Congress, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Hul Jharkhandi parties (Vidyarthi and Sahay 1976). The period from 1970 to 1980 is marked by the presence of a large number of political parties in this region. The period also witnessed the beginning of leftist politics in this region especially in the industrial towns and cities. This resulted in a significant ideological shift in the politics in the region and the focus shifted from the demand for a separate state to autonomy for tribals.

The focus of the Jharkhand movement centred on industrial and agrarian reforms, ending the exploitation of the tribals and granting land rights relegating the demand for a separate state of Jharkhand to the backbench. Political activity now centred on securing more opportunities for the tribals in terms of seats in educational institutions and jobs in industrial enterprises, as also restoration of land alienated from them (Prakash 2001). An alliance was stuck between social reform organisation “Shivaji Samaj” (for restoration of land to people of Kurmi caste) with the Santhal population of the region under the name of JMM. The Marxist Co-ordination Committee (MCOR), a leftist outfit, also supported the JMM. Thus under the leadership of the JMM

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and the MCOR, the Jharkhand movement

was successful in drawing the support of size

able sections of the tribal and non-tribal

population in the region (Prakash 2001).

JMM launched a series of reform move

ments in the region: first, an anti-liquor

campaign which was seen as the main

cause of rural indebtedness and selling

of land in the region; second, the JMM

launched literacy programmes and opened

schools; third, the JMM began to implement

credit institutions in rural areas by estab

lishing “grain banks”; fourth, the JMM re

vived the old tribal tradition of people’s

courts and finally in the agrarian areas the

JMM resorted to direct action campaigns

to recover alienated land in the region. As

a result there were large-scale clashes and

violence during the harvest sessions of

1974-75. This period thus witnessed wide

spread violence and anarchy (Singh 1977).

The JMM and the MCOR formed the

Jharkhand Alliance between the workers

and peasants based on a leftist ideology by

redefining “Jharkhandi” as anyone who

worked and “diku” as anyone who exploi

ted others. The effort was to unite all

Jharkhandis against the dikus to ensure the

creation of a separate state of Jharkhand.

The mass following that the JMM had man

aged to generate led to its becoming more

assertive (Devalle 1992). The railway strike

of 1974 and the nationalisation of coal

mines in this region further galvanised

the leftist radical phase of the Jharkhand

movement. The state administration used

repressive measures on the trade unions,

leftist politicians and the Naxalites to sup

press the movement. The Jharkhand move

ment was undermined during the period

of Emergency from 1975 to 1977, in keep

ing with the suppression of almost all non-

Congress political activity during this pe

riod (Das 1975). Thus, the militant meth

ods adopted by the JMM in the 1970s led to

the decline and waning of the movement.

After the end of Emergency in 1976-77,

attempts were made to revive political

activity in the Jharkhand region. In this

phase, the surviving leaders of the Jhar

khand movement formed a united front

and focused on mass mobilisation to pur

sue the political goal of a separate state of

Jharkhand for ending the economic ex

ploitation of the people in the area. It re

sorted to processions, blockades, gheraos,

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public meetings, propaganda, sit-ins, and demonstrations. Once again it faced severe repression by state agencies (Prakash 2001). A combination of integrationist and repressive measures was adopted to quell the tide of the Jharkhand movement during this phase (Rekhi 1988).

The beginning of the 1980s saw the emergence of cracks in the Jharkhand Alliance that had earlier put forward ambitious programmes for forging unity between the peasant and workers to widen the social base of the movement. The overtly Marxist phase of the movement thus practically ended with the electoral alliance between the JMM and the Cong ress in the 1980 elections and a formal split between the leftist and Jharkhandi political groups followed soon (Prakash 2001).

2 Demand for a Separate State

The cracks that developed in the Jharkhandi movement by the early 1980s lead to further splits and splintering. Shibu Soren launched the JMM as a new political party based on separate identity with the adoption of a new constitution on 6 April 1984 (Dhar 1984). The constitution of the party envisaged the role of the JMM as the leader in the all-round fight to drive out the dikus from the region. The relationship between the tribals and non-tribals in Jharkhand were again redefined conceptually, which was essential if the JMM was to participate in electoral politics. The changes in the demographic profile of the region had made the tribals a numerical minority, so the electoral support of only the tribals was not sufficient to secure enough votes for the JMM (Prakash 2001).

The participation of the JMM in electoral politics and alliance with INC led to an end in political cooperation with the MCOR. The Jharkhand movement again became confused and directionless. The Jharkhand Alliance split into the pro-right JMM led by Shibu Soren, and the pro-communist MCOR led by B B Mahto and A K Roy. Later there was further spilt in JMM into two factions, one led by Soren and the other by Marandi. Shibu Soren emerged as the undisputed mass leader in the region maintaining a close alliance with the Congress(I), becoming the symbol of articulation of the aspirations of the masses in Jharkhand (Prakash 2001).


During the mid-1980s, once again, the Jharkhandi leaders realised the necessity of joint action if meaningful political presence was to be maintained. Consequently, in 1987, political parties JMM (Soren), JMM (Marandi) and a host of smaller organisations came together and formed the Jharkhand Co-ordination Committee (JCC) to lead a unified agitation for realising the dream of a separate province of Jharkhand (Prakash 2001). The JMM factions led by Marandi and Soren played marginal roles in Parliament and the state legislature in the 1990s. It extended support to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RjD) government in Bihar in 1997-98. This move was rewarded by the RJD that adopted a resolution recommending to the Central government the creation of a separate state of Jharkhand. Finally the state of Jharkhand came into being in November 2000.

3 Participation in Formal Politics

The creation of Jharkhand as a separate state in the year 2000 filled new hopes among the people in the new state. People in the southern region of then undivided Bihar had shared a general sense of discrimination and neglect from the political leadership that ruled the state after India’s independence. Political leaders from the north and central Bihar region largely dominated the ruling elites in undivided Bihar. Political leaders from the tribal regions were under-represented and were relegated to the periphery of the ruling class. The state of Jharkhand was created in the year 2000, but the people of Jharkhand got the opportunity to elect its own state assembly after five years of its creation in 2005. Since assembly elections for the undivided Bihar was held barely six months before the division of Bihar into two states of Jharkhand and Bihar it was agreed that members elected to the legislative assembly from the constituencies now under the new state of Jharkhand would be treated as members of the new state assembly and the party having the majority would form the next government. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won the largest number of assembly seats from this region, it managed to form the first government in the newly created state of Jharkhand.

Elections to the first state assembly in Jharkhand took place only after the BJP completed its five years of rule in the state in early 2005. Since JMM led by Shibu Soren, had fought a long battle for the creation of this new state, it was expected that, with large support of the people in the state, JMM along with allies would perform well in the first battle for the ballot in the state. Just six months earlier, in the Lok Sabha elections held in the year 2004, the JMM along with its allies the Congress, RJD and the CPI had fared very well, winning 13 out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the new state, raising expectations for electoral success in the ensuing assembly elections. But contrary to popular expectations, the JMM contested the 2005 assembly elections in alliance with Congress and performed badly managing to win only 17 assembly seats and polled 14.3% votes (Table 1, p 27). The JMM along with the Congress managed to win 26 out of the 81 assembly seats in the state falling short by 15 seats in

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forming the next government. The results indicated that even after the formation of the new Jharkhand state, the JMM was not the first choice party in the state. Despite the JMM’s performance in this election, Shibu Soren remained the most popular choice for chief minister in the state.1

The main factor that was responsible for the poor performance of JMM and its ally Congress in the assembly elections held in 2005 was intensive electoral participation and fragmentation of votes. Similar to trends in Uttaranchal and Chhattisgarh, the upsurge in participation in Jharkhand had been accompanied by a fragmentation of the party political space with a large proportion of votes going to smaller political formations (Yadav and Kumar 2005). Second there was also the lack of unity and coherence in the secular alliance forged between JMM and the Congress during the elections.2 On the other hand, their main rivals BJP and Janata Dal (United) that had fought the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 separately and suffered reverses formed an alliance in this election and also fared quite well in transferring their votes to each other. Third the negative image of JMM created by infighting and nepotism within the party led to poor selection of candidates that may have also proved detrimental and acted as a spoiler to the party’s fortunes. And finally the “late swing” against the JMM-Congress alliance during the election dealt an important blow on the fortunes of both the parties in this election.3

A look at Table 2 reveals that in electoral competitions held for state assembly elections, the JMM since its inception could never poll more than 15% of the valid votes polled. The best performance of JMM in number of assembly constituencies won was in the 1990 assembly elections when it contested in 82 seats and managed to win 19 seats and polled 15% votes. Even in assembly constituencies contested by JMM the percentage of votes polled by the party could never cross more than 24%. The highest best vote share of JMM was in the first assembly elections held after the formation of new state in 2005, when it contested in 49 assembly seats and polled 24% votes. During the 2005 elections it was felt in many quarters that JMM has a sizeable support base in the newly formed Jharkhand

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state. But the electoral performance indi

cates that the support base of the party does

not seem to be broad- based, as the party

could never mobilise more than 25% votes

at state level electo ral competitions.

In contrast to state electoral competi

tions, JMM’s performance at the national

level in Lok Sabha elections since its par

ticipation in 1991 general elections have

been better in terms of percentage of seats

won. The best performance of JMM was in

Lok Sabha elections in 1991, where JMM

in alliance with the Janata Dal contested

the elections and managed to win six out

of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state. JMM

did not do well in the general elections

held in 1996, 1998 and 1999 when it con

tested the polls alone. But alliances with

the secular parties in the state during

general elections has generally favoured

its electoral fortunes and it always does

well in alliance with other parties. In the

Lok Sabha elections held in 2004, JMM

along with its allies, the Congress, RJD

and the CPI, was able to achieve an almost

clean sweep, winning 13 out of the 14 Lok

Sabha seats in Jharkhand, ending the

long domination of the BJP in the state.

The JMM-led alliance established a lead in

62 out of 81 assembly constituencies in

the state.

The recently concluded Lok Sabha elec

tions witnessed further downslide and

shrinking of electoral space of JMM in the

state. It could manage to win only two Lok

Sabha seats losing around 5% vote share

in the state. The tally of seats won is half of

what it won in the last Lok Sabha elections

in 2004. This raises the question as to why

did JMM fare so poorly in Lok Sabha elec

tions in 2009 when the party had such a

spectacular victory in 2004? Was it due to

factionalism and nepotism within the party

or was it due to the incorrect choice of alli

ances? Or were there other important fac

tors that were detrimental in its poor per

formance in the Lok Sabha elections?

The main factor that was responsible

for poor performance of JMM and its ally

Congress in Lok Sabha election was the

multi-polar contest among the five poli

tical formations: the Congress-JMM alli

ance, the BJP-JD(U) alliance, Jharkhand

Vikas Morcha, the RJD-Lok Jansakthi

Party alliance and the Left leading to frag

mentation of votes. This worked in favour

vol xliv no 33

of BJP-JD(U) combine which swept the elections. Second the breaking of ranks from the RJD-LJP alliance proved decisive for JMM’s poor performance in this election. Third the lack of a perfect and united alliance between JMM and Congress with both parties having a not so friendly contest in three seats cost them dear during the elections. And finally, equally crucial was the declining popularity ratings of Shibu Soren and JMM as he lost the Tamar assembly constituency by-elections held four months ago indicating the party was on the downward curve in the state resulting in yet another electoral reversal in the state.

4 Lack of Broad-Based Support

The rise of regional parties in India can be traced to the late 1960s when many new parties were formed based on regional distinctiveness, culture and political mobilisation based on caste/community identities with state-specific agendas. The rise

Table 1: Electoral Performance of JMM in Assembly Elections (1952-2005)

Undivided Bihar Divided Bihar Year Contested Won Votes (%) Votes (%)

1985 57 9 1.8 10.0

1990 82 19 3.1 15.4

1995 63 10 2.3 9.0

2000 85 12 3.5 15.9

2005 49 17 -14.3

Source: CSDS data unit.

Table 2: Electoral Performance of JMM in Lok Sabha Elections (1991-2009)

Year of Election Seats Won (%) Votes Polled (%)

1991 6

1996 1

1998 0

1999 0

2004 4

2009 2

Jharkhand has a total of 13 Lok Sabha seats. During the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, JMM contested the election in alliance with Janata Dal. JMM contested the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in alliance with Congress, RJD and CPI. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections JMM contested in alliance with Congress with friendly contest in three seats. The JMM contested the 1996 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections alone. Source: CSDS Data Unit.

Table 3: JMM Gets the Main Credit for Formation of State of Jharkhand (in %)

JMM BJP Congress Other Parties
All respondents 41 37 16 6
JMM voters 90 5 4 1
BJP voters 18 79 2 1
Congress voters 36 9 53 2
Voters of other parties 39 26 8 27

Table is statistically significant @ p value < .001. Source: Prabhat Khabar, Jharkhand Assembly Election Study, Pre-poll-2005, weighted data set.


of regional parties led to changes in power equations in state politics as these parties representing sectional interests were able to carve a niche for themselves. In some states, regional parties are perceived by voters to serve their interests better in comparison to the national parties and therefore in those instances, regional parties are seen to be a natural choice for the electorate. As a result, regional parties came to hold centre stage in many states of India and created alternative political space for themselves. The reasons for the rise of regional parties can be attributed to the federal structure of government envisaged by the Indian Constitution that provides political space for national level parties and state parties to compete with each other. Another important factor that led to the rise of regional parties was partly a natural development and partly a reaction to over-centralisation by Congress government in the 1970s and 1980s leading to federalisation of the polity and formation of new regional and state-based parties (Hasan 2004).

JMM also emerged as a regional party in Jharkhand but its electoral history shows that it has failed to occupy the centre stage in state politics by getting the majority support of the electorate. Regional parties such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the JD(U) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) have received majority support of the voters in their states and have formed state governments on their own. However JMM got a fragmented verdict in the state assembly elections held in 2005 and needed the support of other parties and independents to form the government. As a result the government led by JMM in the state always remained a fragile coalition with political pulls and pressures. This raises the question that unlike other regional parties in different states why did JMM fail to hold centre stage in state politics and in receiving majority support from the people in Jharkhand. Before probing this question it would be relevant to find out as to what extent people in Jharkhand bestow the main credit for the formation of a separate state to JMM and other political parties in the state.

There was a popular sentiment in Jharkhand that JMM played a crucial role in the formation of the new state and voice of the national parties in this demand, though positive was not as vociferous. The survey findings (Table 3, p 27) vindicate the popular sentiment to some extent as more than four out of 10 voters in Jharkhand gave JMM the main credit for the formation of the new state. But a slightly less number of voters also gave BJP the credit for the creation of the new state. Thus, the credit for the formation of a new state was split between JMM and BJP and it seems that JMM failed to politically posture itself as the main inheritor of Jharkhand movement that led to the creation of the new state. Though an overwhelming majority of the traditional supporters of JMM gave it the main credit for the formation of Jharkhand, a sizeable section of supporters of BJP, Congress and supporters of other political parties also felt that JMM played a crucial role in the formation of the new state.

Thus, one of the reasons for poor performance of JMM in state electoral competition and its failure to hold centre stage of state politics can be explained in its inability to project itself as the party which spearheaded the movement for the creation of the new state and reap electoral benefits out of it. An analysis of the support base of the party based on quantitative data gathered by CSDS post-poll

Table 4: JMM Popular among Adivasis and Muslims Only (in %)

Caste-Community Lok Sabha Assembly Lok Sabha Election 2004 Election 2005 Election 2009

All 16 14 12

Upper caste

7 1

Other Backward Classes (OBC) 13 5

Dalit 19 21 13

Adivasi 25 31 30

Muslims 22 9

Source: Post-poll surveys conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies after assembly elections 2005 and Lok Sabha elections 2004 and 2009.

Table 5: JMM Losing Support Base among Youth (in %)

Lok Sabha Assembly Lok Sabha Election 2004 Election 2005 Election 2009

All 16 14 12
Young (below 25 years) 20 10 13
Old (56 years or more) 14 20 12
Men 18 14 11
Women 14 15 13
Rural 16 17 12
Urban 16 2 11

Source: Post-poll surveys conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies after assembly elections 2005 and Lok Sabha elections 2004 and 2009.

surveys conducted for last few elections would better explain the failure of JMM with evidence to occupy the centre stage of state politics in Jharkhand.

The party’s support base in the state does not seem to be broad (Table 4). It appears narrow and localised with regard to location, gender, age groups and caste



august 15, 2009 vol xliv no 33


communities. JMM had since its beginning carried on the struggles against the exploitation of the adivasis by the dikus. Though the JMM united both the tribals and nontribals under its banner in the struggle for creation of a separate state, JMM has always been seen as a party of the tribals. Adivasis constitute 26% of the population and are numerically the largest group in the state. If we look at Table 5 (p 28) we see that JMM has a sizeable support among the adivasi voters, but the support is sectional and fragmented into other parties. Only about one-third of adivasis voted for the JMM during the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. The adivasi votes are fragmented between the JMM, the Congress and the BJP. The JMM has stronger support base among the Santhals and the Oraons, while amongst the Munda tribes; BJP has a stronger support base as compared to the JMM. As a comparison the JMM commanded only about 30% of the tribal votes in Jharkhand in 2009 in contrast to the 77% of the dalit votes by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and 73% of the Yadav vote by the SP in the 2007 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Among upper castes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the JMM commanded very minuscule support. JMM had around 13% votes among the dalits and about 32% among the Muslims but this aggregate is not enough in combination with the party’s core tribal support to lend the party the centre stage of Jharkhand’s politics. In contrast, the assembly election results in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 showed that the nuclei of the overwhelming dalit base along with the increased votes share among the upper castes, peasant OBCs and Muslims formed the critical mass required in bringing BSP to power in the state. In essence, there is an absence of a larger aggregate of social support for the JMM in Jharkhand in comparison to a party like the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, thereby preventing the JMM from occupying a more central role in Jharkhand’s politics.

The party has a marginally higher support among the rural voters as compared with those living in towns and cities. However the party lost 5% support in Lok Sabha elections this time among voters in rural areas, but gained 7 percentage points support among the urban voters. The JMM

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also commanded 2% more support among female voters than male voters in Lok Sabha elections 2009. The decline in male voters by seven percentage points in 2009 general elections as compared with the last Lok Sabha elections offset the JMM’s overall voteshare.

The population of youth in Jharkhand is more than 30% and a good share of support from the youth is crucial for any political party to perform well in elections. Among voters below 25 years of age, around 20% supported the JMM during the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004 that dropped steeply to 13% in this election. Thus, the JMM had a significant loss of support among the numerically strong young voters in the state by around seven percentage points. In the last five years, a sizeable number of young voters seem to have been disillusioned by the kind of politics played by JMM and have moved away from the party. The strong erosion of youth voters from JMM that formed the major support base of the party along with its failure to polarise overwhelming tribal support in its favour might have played a crucial role in spoiling the party’s fortunes in Lok Sabha elections in 2009.

5 Conclusions

In a state with sizeable adivasi population, and especially after the successful creation of the new state, it was expected that, the JMM will occupy a central position in Jharkhand’s politics, but the party seems to be far away from that dream. Its support base still remains much below the required threshold for it to occupy a primal position in the state’s politics. The JMM’s appeal is concentrated among certain sections but it needs to stitch a larger social coalition of different caste communities. The Lok Sabha election results clearly indicate that the party is currently on the downslide and heading towards decline. Shibu Soren, once a “tall leader” and a symbol of Jharkhandi movement in the state has lost his stature because of inconsistent politics and personal follies.


1 Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar, “Soren Preferred as Chief Minister”, The Hindu, 7 March 2005, National page. Despite the JMM’s low key performance Shibu Soren remained the popular choice for chief minister as the post-poll survey conducted in Jharkhand by the CSDS revealed.

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Asked whom they favoured as chief minister, 23% of the respondents backed Shibu Soren. Soren enjoyed much higher support among adivasis compared to other contenders, all from the adivasi community, with his popularity cutting across communities, particularly Muslims and dalits. Babulal Marandi lead Shibu Soren in support from the upper castes, the Mahatos, and the Other Backward Classes.

2 Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar, “Not Alliance Arithmetic Alone”, The Hindu, 7 March 2005, Opinion page. The anti-BJP forces moved from unity to disunity during this period in more than one way. First, the alliance shed partners such as the RJD and Left parties on the assumption that they were dispensable. It did this at a time when the BJP was learning a lesson about the indispensability of smaller allies. A post facto analysis suggests that if the Congress, the JMM and the RJD had forged a perfect pre-poll alliance, one that avoided all conflict, its combined vote share was enough to win 44 seats. Second, the truncated Congress-JMM alliance was far from perfect. It was marred by many not-so- ‘friendly’ contests. All the votes gained by the two parties did not add up as votes for the alliance. Third, the two allies were very poor in transferring their votes to each other. The BJP-JD(U) fared much better on this count. It is difficult to estimate the precise effect of all these three follies on the part of the JMM-Congress. But there is no doubt that better alliance making would have put the UPA in a less embarrassing situation that it finds itself in today.

3 Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar, “Not Alliance Arithmetic Alone”, The Hindu, 7 March 2005, Opinion page. A “late swing” against the Congress-JMM may have also dealt a significant blow to the combine. The polling took place in three phases over three weeks. The 24 constituencies that went to the polls in the first phase actually saw a five-percentage point swing in favour of the Congress-JMM compared with its share in the Lok Sabha election. The BJP-JD(U) suffered a loss of 20 percentage points in this phase. By the second phase of the election, the downward slide for the Congress and JMM had begun. The combine lost 15 percentage points in the second phase and as much as 22 points in the third. It seems that the adverse image created by infighting and nepotism within the JMM may have caused the steep decline in Congress-JMM fortunes.


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