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Jharkhand Budget A Master Stroke Of CM Raghubar Das

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has presented a Rs 75,673.42 crore annual budget for the year 2017-18 with focus on poverty alleviation, rural development, agriculture and skill development

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Raghubar Das, Chief Minister of Jharkhand, has pledged to eradicate poverty that he suffered for decades. In a last ditch effort to claim immunity from the charges of being anti-poor and an anti-tribal, Das declared 2017 as Garib Kalyan (poor welfare) year while presenting a budget of over Rs 75 thousand crore for the next fiscal on January 23.

The decision is not only meant to ensure the uplift of the downtrodden but is potent enough to target his political adversaries who have often dubbed his role as anti-poor and anti-tribal. Whether it is land-related issues or that of reservation for locals in Government jobs, the present dispensation has had to face allegations of partiality. But contrary to allegations, Das and his team have made a virtual breakthrough in taking on their rivals.

Das who claims to belong to a poor labourer family of the State confided that the curse of poverty that he faced for decades might not have been experienced by many and this was the reason he took the vow to fight it out. Although the welfare schemes that he mentioned in the budget and promised to execute during the next fiscal have been dubbed by the opposition as unrealistic, he has dared his political adversaries -- within and outside the party fold -- to suggest mechanisms for the development of the State without making amendments in the century-old Acts for protection of the tribal rights.

Expressing anguish over the washout of successive sessions of the State Assembly in the backdrop of the opposition’s allegations against the Government to infringe upon the rights of poor tribals in the State, the Chief Minister claimed that he would not compromise with the development of the State even at the cost of holding on to his chair.

In order to acquire tribal land for development purposes, the Government has proposed to relax the stringent provisions of the Chota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act that are meant to protect tribal rights. The move has stoked a statewide outcry and not only opposition parties, but pro-tribal leaders of the ruling BJP and its allies have expressed their displeasure. In fact, opposition parties have not allowed the Assembly to conduct its business for the past consecutive two weeks while former Chief Minister and BJP stalwart, Arjun Munda -- who is well-known as the bete noire of Das -- registered his stiff objection over the Government move and came out with the suggestions to ensure the development of the State in the light of the provisions of the Acts. He has been against amendments in the basic essence of the Acts. More, the Government’s own ally AJSU criticized the move to the hilt and preferred to desert the Tribal Advisory Council, a high-powered body under the leadership of the Chief Minister to protect the interests of tribals in general in the State.

Incidentally, the Chief Minister -- who was seen struggling to restore order in the BJP fold too -- preferred to cash-in on the situation by endorsing Munda’s suggestions. In a strategic move, the CM announced in the house --amidst the ruckus by the opposition on the issue during general discussions on the budget -- that the Government would comply with the suggestions made by Arjun Munda.

Interestingly, reacting to the Munda’s proposal, the Chief Minister is supposed to have played a master-stroke by making the announcement and it is likely to have implications on the politicking by his adversaries. The move assumes even greater significance in the light of the fact that the CM remained at variance with the opposition on the issue of amendments in the CNT and SPT Acts and preferred to address the demand by his party colleague and well known adversary Arjun Munda to resolve the tangle instead.

If well-placed sources in the State BJP are to be believed, with the implicit endorsement to the demand of the opposition by flaying the Government for possible amendments in the tribal Acts, Munda’s role has come under a cloud. It is believed that Munda is working in tandem with tribal leaders of the opposition parties on the issue in order to salvage his political bastion among tribals, in particular, in the State.

In a multi-pronged strategy, Das aims not only to frustrate attempts by the opposition to stall the business of the house time and again, but to expose the nexus between Munda and the opposition leaders. If the opposition turns pro-active on the assurances by the Government to comply with the Munda proposal, the Government would, indeed, heave a sigh of relief to deal with the opposition demand -- albeit putting the loyalty of Munda to his party in power at the stake.
Political strategists privy to Das accuse Munda of encouraging opposition leaders to tarnish image of the Government of his own party both inside and outside the house. They claim that the recent incident of showing black flags and hurling shoes at the Chief Minister during his visit to Kharsawan (the home constituency of Munda) -- where he went to pay the customary annual homage to the martyrs of the freedom movement -- was prompted by a well-hatched conspiracy under the prodding from Munda.

Das has, however, reasons to claim immunity from the charges of succumbing to Munda under duress or carrying out a tirade against him with political vendettas by passing the buck on the latter. If Das made Munda accountable to deal with possible eventual imbroglios while implementing the suggested rectifications in the Government proposal for amendments in the tribal Acts, he prioritized Munda’s suggestion to resolve the fortnight-long logjam in the house – that is in session since January 17- by keeping the opposition at tenterhooks.

But, to top it all, Chief Minister Raghubar Das remains in a fix to deal with the present statewide outcry over the issue of amendments in the CNT and SPT Acts unless opposition parties refuse to reap spin-off benefits of the Government’s populist initiative for their political mileage.