BJP set for clean sweep in Jharkhand

via Sidharth Mishra | Ranchi/Dumka - Daily Pioneer published on April 22, 2009

With just 36 hours to go for the final phase of Lok Sabha poll in Jharkhand, accounting for 14 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a definite edge. Thanks to the Congress policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound, the BJP is enjoying the advantage of double anti-incumbency — against the State and the Central Governments.

Of the 14, eight seats go to the poll on Thursday. The election to the Maoist-infested six seats of Chatra, Palamu, Hazaribagh, Lohardagga, Khunti and Koderma was held on April 16 amid unprecedented violence perpetrated by the Maoists. The BJP is all set to stage a strong comeback with the party getting up to eight seats and its perceivable allies like Babulal Marandi, Inder Singh Namdhari and others managing two to three seats.

In 2004, the UPA swept in Jharkhand with the Congress bagging six, JMM four, RJD two and CPI one. The lone non-UPA seat was won by Babulal Marandi, first on the BJP ticket and later under his own party’s banner following a by-election.

Ever since the Assembly poll held in 2005, there has been instability in Ranchi with three Chief Ministers taking oath of office and several interregnums of Central rule. The State is facing unprecedented assault by the Maoist elements on the democratic institutions and development has been the biggest casualty. With Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren-led Governments going down in history as the most ineffective and corrupt administration, the BJP is all set to reap a rich political harvest.

The biggest loser in the political one-upmanship orchestrated in the State at the behest of the UPA Government could be the regional parties. The voters here blame the Centre, especially the UPA partners like the RJD and the JMM for arm-twisting the Congress for allowing a totally unacceptable formation led by Independent MLA Madhu Koda to run the State administration for over a year.

There is a very strong feeling for giving the regional outfits a shove and give opportunity to the national parties. “In this scenario, the BJP emerges as the natural choice having faced the brunt of the machinations by a scheming Centre,” says Dineshanand Goswami, party ideologue. With veteran Raghubar Dass once again in command, the party has consolidated its OBC/Vaish vote bank. The predominant Mahto votes are facing three-way to four-way division from constituency-to-constituency.

The Congress, from the political turmoil, has emerged as the main attraction for the minority votes. There are visible signs of the Muslims turning out in large numbers to vote in favour of the Congress. But will that alone be enough to see the Congress through? “We have been able to attract youth in large numbers, thanks to the extensive campaign by Rahul Gandhi,” says Jai Shankar Pathak, president of the Jharkhand unit of the Indian Youth Congress.

The youth factor may spur the Congress chances in some of the urban seats like Ranchi, where sitting MP and Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay is locked in a keen contest with five-term MP Ram Tahal Chowdhary or Hazaribagh, where sitting MLA and scion of the local royal family Saurabh Narain Singh is taking on former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha. But again the Congress on both the seats has to battle double anti-incumbency, despite both Sahay and Singh being good candidates. “In case of the Congress, it is triple anti-incumbency as Governor Sibte Razi is seen as an emissary of Congress high command,” says Harendra Singh, a long-time aide of former Chief Minister Arjun Munda. The former CM, who was deposed at the behest of the Congress, is contesting from Jamshedpur (non-reserved) seat and enjoys a definite advantage.

The Congress is also paying a price for its pro-missionary stand. It could end-up paying price for this by losing three seats — Khunti, Lohardagga and Singhbhum — which it held in 2004. Lohardagga is represented by Union Minister Rameshwar Oraon, Singhbhum by party veteran Bagun Sumbrui and Khunti by Sushila Karketta, whom the party has replaced as its candidate. What’s ironical is that Sumbrui is being made to defend his turf by Madhu Koda, whom the Congress nursed as Chief Minister for over a year. Oraon could stand penalised for his close liaison with the local missionary establishments. BJP’s Kadia Munda, a former Union Minister, is on a strong footing in Khunti.

And of course, the Congress also stands disadvantaged by the breaking down of the UPA completely. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s RJD managed to poach on Congress veteran Thomas Hansda and field him from Raj Mahal seat. Hansda is front-runner on the seat. The Congress decided to give the seat to JMM as part of seat-sharing arrangement.

However, the JMM did not honour the commitment in the neighbouring Godda constituency, where sitting Congress MP Furkan Ansari is fighting to retain the seat. JMM general secretary Durga Soren is contesting from Godda.

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