Jharkhand campaign will miss JMM’s ‘guru’

April 4th, 2009 - 3:17 pm ICT by IANS  

By Nityanand Shukla
Ranchi, April 4 (IANS) He may have a controversial image but in Jharkhand he is revered by thousands as the man who successfully led the fight for a separate state. But the bearded former chief minister, who looks more like a religious guru than a politician,

will be missed during this Lok Sabha campaign.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supremo is in hospital for the last two months and is unable to walk without support. On Friday he was again rushed to New Delhi in a chartered plane from Bokaro and admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) for treatment. He is reported to be suffering from cardiac problems and urinary tract infection.

However, what laid the 65-year-old fighter so low was not his illness but the shock of the death of his younger brother, Shankar Soren, a JMM member who was about 10 years his junior.

Soren has been in hospital ever since he quit as chief minister Jan 12 after losing a key assembly by-election. His younger brother died the next day, Jan 13. The double shock had a deep impact on Soren’s heart and mind, say people close to him.

He had said on the death of his brother, “Raj aur bhai, dono chala gaya. (I have lost both - power and my brother).”

Soren, called “Disom Guru” or revered leader, has become so weak that when he came to Dumka three days ago to file his nomination papers, he was taken to the Deputy Commissioner’s office in an ambulance. He was not able to walk by himself.

Soren arrived in Dumka in a chartered plane. He also flew to Jamtara, around 80 km away, to file his nomination for an assembly by-election.

The JMM chief has seen many ups and down in his life. But this seems to be one of the worst phases for him and his party.

He had to step down as union coal minister in Novermber 2006 when a Delhi court found him guilty in the murder of his private secretary Shashinath Jha in 1994. He was sentenced to a life term, but the ruling was set aside by the Delhi High Court in August 2007. He has also faced other criminal charges.

The JMM will have to face the 2009 polls without its only popular leader. The party, which had gone into hibernation after the infamous JMM bribery scandal of 1993 when its support was allegedly bought to prop up the minority government of then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, was revived after Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar in 2000.

In the 2000 assembly election that took place in undivided Bihar, the party had only 11 legislators, which increased to 17 in 2005. The JMM had no Lok Sabha MP in the 1999 election, but it succeeded in winning five seats in 2004.

Shibu Soren’s long cherished dream to become chief minister of Jharkhand was finally fulfilled in August 2008. But after he lost the Tamar by-election, he had to quit the post.

JMM leaders are very disappointed that their leader is in hospital and say his absence would be felt on the campaign trail. But his sons are trying to put up a brave face.

Durga Soren, the eldest son of Shibu Soren, said: “The people of Jharkhand remember the contribution of Baba (father). I and my younger brother Hemant will manage everything including the election campaign. The JMM will win more seats in this election.”

The JMM has prepared a video of Shibu Soren’s message and his appeal to people to vote for the party. The film will be shown at election rallies.

Lok Sabha polls and the assembly by-poll will be held in Jharkhand on April 16 and 23.

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