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2024 Lok Sabha Polls

Jharkhand: BJP to face tough fight in Lok Sabha polls this time

RANCHI: Despite its dominance in the last three Lok Sabha elections, the BJP in Jharkhand is poised for a tough battle this time due to internal rumblings, resentment among the rank and file of the party over ticket distribution and tribal opposition in pockets, leaders of the saffron camp said. The state with 14 Lok Sabha seats is scheduled to go to polls in four phases beginning May 13.

The saffron party is contesting from 13 constituencies as per a seat-sharing pact with ally AJSU Party which will field its candidate from Giridih Lok Sabha seat.

“Barring three, the BJP has given tickets to those who have come to the party either ahead of the Lok Sabha polls or earlier. This has sent a bad signal to the old-timers. What comes as a shock to us is the nomination of Baghmara MLA Dulu Mahto for the Dhanbad constituency. The party dropped sitting MP Pashupati Nath Singh. This has triggered a revolt among a section of our workers and upper caste voters,” a BJP activist said.

Incidentally, Mahto, who was with the Jharkhand Vikash Morcha (JVM) earlier, was embroiled in about two dozen cases and joined the BJP in 2014.

Though none of the senior BJP leaders commented on this, the Congress’ state unit president Rajesh Thakur attacked the saffron party, stating that ”the BJP is contesting elections on borrowed players. Its workers feel cheated after such a decision. The saffron camp is in a state of jittery.” The BJP replaced its candidate and sitting MP Sunil Soren from the Dumka seat with Sita Soren, who had switched over to the saffron camp on March 20. Sita is a three-term MLA and elder daughter-in-law of JMM supremo Shibu Soren.

Notably, Sunil had defeated the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha patriarch by 47,590 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“Sunil was initially renominated but he was replaced by Sita Soren. There is a strong resentment among loyal party workers after Sunil’s candidature was recalled,” a senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity.

Speculations are rife that the JMM may field ex-chief minister Hemant Soren, who is now in jail, from the prestigious Dumka seat.

Hemant was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on January 31 in connection with a money-laundering case linked to an alleged land fraud. He had resigned as the chief minister.

The BJP, in Hazaribagh, nominated local MLA Manish Jaiswal, replacing sitting MP Jayant Sinha, son of former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, who has been critical of the Narendra Modi government. The change of face in Hazaribagh didn’t go well with Sinha loyalists, another party leader said. The BJP leader also said the party will face a tough challenge as ”Jaiswal’s image on account of coal and liquor trade money was not fair” and the Sinha family has its hold over the constituency. Notably, Jaiswal had earlier contested from the Mandu assembly seat on a JVM ticket.

The Congress has fielded Jai Prakashbhai Patel, BJP’s Mandu MLA who recently joined the grand-old party.

Patel has ”sizeable votes, especially among the Mahto and Kurmi communities in the region”, and his father Tek Lal Mahto was an MP, and the influence of the family on electors is also a factor, a BJP leader said. For the Khunti constituency, the contest for Union Minister and sitting MP Arjun Munda is not going to be a cakewalk as his victory margin was just 1,445 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress has fielded Kalicharan Munda from the seat, who was in the second position five years ago.

The saffron party this time is making all efforts to wrest the Rajmahal (ST) seat from JMM, where Vijay Kumar Hansdak had, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, defeated BJP nominee Hemlal Murmu.

The BJP has changed its nominee this time and given a ticket to its former Jharkhand state president Tala Marandi from Rajmahal. Marandi, who had won the Borio assembly seat on a BJP ticket in 2014, had joined the AJSU party in 2019 after being denied a ticket. He, however, returned to the saffron camp in 2022.

For Lohardaga where the BJP won with a slender margin last time, the party has reposed faith in its Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand Samir Oraon, hoping that the change of candidate would help retain the seat.

The party replaced existing MP Sudarshan Bhagat, whose victory margin during the last poll was just over 10,000 votes.

The Congress, on the other hand, has fielded Sukhdeo Bhagat from the seat, who was the runner-up in the 2019 elections and has a strong support base in the constituency, making it tough for the BJP nominee. The nomination of Geeta Kora, the wife of former chief minister Madhu Koda, from the Singhbhum also created resentment among local BJP leaders, as she joined the saffron camp ahead of the Lok Sabha polls this time. Geeta was Jharkhand’s lone Congress MP from Sighbhum. According to sources in the JMM, the party may field state transport minister Dipak Birua from the seat.

BJP state president Babulal Marandi, however, exuded confidence that the party will win all 14 seats in the state.

Former state president and Rajya Sabha MP Deepak Prakash also said the BJP believes in organisational discipline and the workers will ensure the victory of NDA in all the constituencies. Both the ruling JMM-Congress-RJD alliance in the state and the BJP have been aggressively campaigning in a bid to consolidate their position.

However, Godda is a relatively safe seat for the BJP and Nishikant Dubey is seeking re-election, a party leader said. Dubey had defeated Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) nominee Pradeep Yadav by 1,84,227 votes in 2019.

Union minister Annapurna Devi has been renominated as a BJP nominee from mica-belt Koderma, which has been considered a BJP bastion. She had defeated Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) by a margin of 4,55,600 votes five years ago. The BJP has again nominated sitting MP Bidyut Baran Mahto from Jamshedpur, which is considered a pocket borough for the party.

Mahto had defeated JMM’s candidate Champai Soren with over 3 lakh votes five years ago. Moreover, the delay in announcing the candidate of the opposition bloc INDIA gave an advantage to the BJP contestant.

Source: Press Trust of India

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