In a tweet shortly after voting on the five-phase elections ended last week, the presumptive chief minister of the opposition alliance Hemant Soren outlined his contribution in the elections and took a sharp swipe at the BJP.
“I addressed 182 rallies, public meetings road shows besides innumerable corner meetings. We could not give advertisement in newspapers and TV channels because we are the voice of the poor and the exploited. We do not have money power. BJP fielded army of star campaigners from other states. BJP-AJSU spent money like flowing water in this election. But it was not me, but people of Jharkhand who were contesting this election,” said Soren, JMM working president, in a tweet on Friday soon after polls got over.
JMM, Congress and RJD contested the 2019 assembly election in alliance against the ruling BJP-JAUS combine. While the JMM contested 43 seats, Congress contested 31 and the RJD in the rest seven.
As the leader of the senior partner in the alliance – his father JMM chief Shibu Soren had stepped back due to health reasons – Hemant Soren led the charge in this election from the front.
Though Shibu Soren is still JMM chief, Soren junior gradually emerged out of his father’s shadow when he pulled down the Arjun Munda government, where he was deputy chief minister, in 2012 and became chief minister with support from Congress and RJD the next year.
Soon after, 44-year-old Hemant, an engineering college dropout, was nominated working president of the party at the Jamshedpur convention, and he led the JMM to its highest ever tally of 19 seats in the assembly, bettering from 18 seats in 2009.
“The fact that Hemant was the heir apparent after death of his elder brother Durga Soren was a foregone conclusion. But his tenure as CM cemented his place, both within and outside the party. Though his tenure lasted only 14 months, it put him in the driver’s seat completely. Whatever resistance he faced, if at all it existed, from a section of senior leader of his father’s generation, it was completely laid to rest due to his tenure as CM,” a senior JMM leader said.
JMM insiders said while JMM lost the 2014 assembly polls, the results, wherein JMM got 19 seats despite the Modi wave, Hemant Soren earned lot of political premium as he was the lone tall tribal leader who emerged victorious – from one of the two seats he contested – in the election that saw other community stalwarts, including three former CMs Arjun Munda, Babulal Marandi and Madhu Koda, bite the dust.
However, it was not a smooth start for the Hemant Soren. Shibu Soren’s decision to field Hemant from Dumka in 2005 left the party facing a rebellion. Shibu Soren’s long-term associate Stephen Marandi left JMM and contested from Dumka as an Independent and won. Hemant finished third. The tables, however, turned in 2009 when Hemant won and Marandi, a six-term MLA from Dumka, finished third.
Analysts say Soren’s personality, which is in sharp contrast to JMM’s identity of agitation politics led by his father, has also helped himself in increasing his acceptability even among the non-tribals.
“He is in a different league that his father. He knows that his father was basically leading a movement while he is leading a political party. He has also transformed himself over the past five years in his public persona. Hemant has shown that he is in command. Barring a few hiccups during seat sharing which is natural to the campaign period, it never appeared that there are chinks in the alliance,” said LK Kundan, who teaches political science at Ranchi University.