Politics that won't end, in a state that won't get started

Semi Column

Jharkhand has entered its third bout of President's rule in its 12 years and two months of existence.

There have been eight chief ministers during this period, with no CM completing a five-year term. Meanwhile, the state continues to be marked by abject levels of poverty and complete absence of basic facilities.

In going in for President's rule instead of fresh elections, the ruling Congress at the Centre appears to be trying to cash in on the interlude before polls to earn goodwill in the state.

However, there is another aspect to this than the obviously political one. The Centre appears to be concerned about the failure to contain Maoist activities in the state. This is obvious from the choice of two former bureaucrats to advise the governor — Madhukar Gupta was earlier the Union home secretary and K Vijay Kumar retired as CRPF DG.

The President's rule therefore may not be just about maintaining the status quo and holding fort till another government assumes charge; this is an active push against insurgency.

That subsequent governments have failed to contain extremism is hardly in doubt. The crucial Saranda Action Plan, under which development was to be ushered into the dense Sal forests located in the West Singhbhum district after flushing out Maoists, has not progressed at the pace it was supposed to. Fingers were pointed at the BJP-led government's hesitancy to promote Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh's pet scheme.

The Jharkhand Congress is gloating in private that President's rule gives it a chance to show the state that good governance works. However, the moot issue of whether the Centre should get into what is essentially a state's terrain remains. Naysayers also point out that the Centre is no saint either: the Sarju Area Development Action Plan, similar to SAP but thrice its size in planned expenditure at Rs 450 crore, is still caught in Delhi's red tape. It isn't the first time politics has been played at the expense of a state. However, ailing Jharkhand can hardly afford more of the same.

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