The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has offered the virtual olive branch to the breakaway Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) president Babulal Marandi in a bid to lure him back into the party.
Marandi, the first Jharkhand chief minister, fell out with BJP and floated his own political outfit in 2006. He could never get over the shock of being replaced as chief minister in 2003 by BJP under pressure of the then ally Janata Dal (United) by much junior Arjun Munda.
BJP has been unsuccessfully trying to woo Marandi and get him back into the party for some time. BJP started the process of getting all estranged leaders who had left the party when Nitin Gadkari became the BJP president in 2010. While it succeeded in getting Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and B.S. Yeddyurappa back into the fold by persuading them to merge their respective parties with the BJP, it failed to convince Marandi. BJP made the last attempt to get Marandi into the fold just before Jharkhand elections. The plan was to prevent split of BJP’s traditional Hindu votes in the 2014 general elections.
The idea behind the move to get Marandi join the BJP-led coalition government in Jharkhand and also try and convince him to merge JVM with BJP is to lessen its dependence on ally All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) Party and let the government breathe comfortably. BJP’s 37 seats and AJSU Party’s 5, together barely crossed the majority mark in the 81-member assembly. JVM won 8 seats in the just concluded Jharkhand assembly polls.
Reports coming from the state capital Ranchi suggest that Marandi is not opposed to merging his party with BJP and may initiate talks with other leaders of his party who are apprehensive that they get marginalised once they become part of the BJP.
While Marandi and Arjun Munda are seen as rivals, interestingly both were defeated in the just concluded assembly elections. Marandi, however, continues to be a Member of Parliament and may be offered a ministerial assignment in the Narendra Modi government at the centre while one of two JVM lawmakers may become ministers in the Jharkhand government.
JVM’s merger will get BJP a majority on its own and lessen its dependence on AJSU Party which has been trying to arm-twist BJP for more favours including nomination of one of its five lawmakers as deputy chief minister and one cabinet berth, besides Rajya Sabha berth for its president Sudesh Mahto, a former deputy chief minister, who too was defeated in the assembly polls.