BJP picks ex-CM Marandi, its old tribal face, as new Jharkhand unit chief - Hindustan Times
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BJP picks ex-CM Marandi, its old tribal face, as new Jharkhand unit chief

By, Ranchi
Jul 04, 2023 09:45 PM IST

Marandi, 65, who started his public life with the RSS and VHP, has the distinction of being the first chief minister of Jharkhand after it was carved out of Bihar in 2000.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday appointed former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi as its state unit president, replacing Rajya Sabha member Deepak Prakash who had completed his three-year term in February this year.

Former Jharkhand CM Babulal Marandi. (HT)
Former Jharkhand CM Babulal Marandi. (HT)

“Party president JP Nadda has appointed MLA and former chief minister Babulal Marandi as president of Jharkhand BJP. His appointment is being done with immediate effect,” the letter issued by BJP general secretary Arun Singh said.

Thanking the party top leadership for giving him the “responsibility”, Marandi said service of the country and development of Jharkhand would be his priority. “My priority is to work along with party leaders, especially the workers, to further strengthen the party for the upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections,” he said.

Marandi, 65, who started his public life with the RSS and VHP, has the distinction of being the first chief minister of Jharkhand after it was carved out of Bihar in 2000.

He had left the BJP in 2006 over differences with the central and state leadership. Fourteen years later, Marandi returned home as he merged his JVM (P) with the saffron party in February 2020, soon after the 2019 assembly elections in which the Hemant Soren-led three-party alliance wrested power from the BJP.

Though BJP made him its legislature party leader, the Speaker is yet to give leader of opposition status to Marandi as a disqualification petition against him is pending. Party insiders said the central leadership could name a new legislature party leader soon.

“His appointment gives a clear signal that he continues to enjoy the confidence of the central leadership, especially the prime minister. The party did not budge despite the Speaker sitting on the disqualification petition after reserving the order in August last year. BJP did not replace him as legislature party leader. And now with Lok Sabha elections drawing closer and assembly elections scheduled soon after in 2024, the party has given a clear signal that it is Marandi who would lead the BJP’s march,” a senior party leader said.

Of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the BJP had won 11 seats in 2019 while its ally AJSU Party had won one. However, six months later, BJP was routed in the assembly elections, largely blamed by political observers on the tribals turning against the party.

Marandi belongs to Santhali tribe, the biggest tribal subgroup in the state, where scheduled tribes account for around 26.5 per cent of the 3.24 crore population, as per the 2011 census.

The patriarch of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Shibu Soren, who is also the tallest tribal leader in the state, also belongs to Santhal tribe that dwells majorly in Santhal Parganas and North Chhota Nagpur divisions of the state.

Marandi emerged on the political landscape of the state in 1998, when he defeated Shibu Soren from Dumka Lok Sabha seat, the pocket borough of Sorens in Santhal Parganas. A year later, he repeated his feat by defeating Rupi Soren, wife of Shibu Soren, from the same seat.

Rewarding him for his performance and organizational work, Atal Bihari Vajpayee inducted him in his cabinet during his first tenure as the Prime Minister and gave him forest and environment portfolio. In November 2000, he was made first chief minister of Jharkhand.

Marandi is a four-term MP and two-term MLA. Currently, he represents his home constituency, Dhanwar in Giridih district, in the assembly.

While the party workers and leaders welcomed the appointment, party insiders said the biggest challenge of Marandi would be to curb infighting in the party, besides winning over the confidence of the tribal community ahead of the upcoming elections.

“Return of Marandi opens another front in the party, which was already divided into camps led by two other former chief ministers, Arjun Munda and Raghubar Das. Also, BJP was at the receiving end in 2019 elections after it experimented by making Raghubar Das first non-tribal chief minister of the state in 2014,” a senior party leader said.

Of the 28 assembly seats reserved for scheduled tribes (ST), BJP could only win two seats in 2019, down from 14 in the 2014 state elections.

The JMM and Congress won other 26 ST seats and won a handsome majority of 47 along with the third ally RJD in the 81-member House.

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