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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

In Jharkhand, BJP may find the going tough

Sandeep Dikshit

RANCHI

The campaign came to an end this evening in the northern part of Jharkhand, which goes to the polls on April 20. The trend is in favour of the alliance of the Congress, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Marxist Coordination Committee.

At stake are six of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the State and the political careers of several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders — the Union Ministers, Yashwant Sinha and Nagmani, the State's first Chief Minister, Babu Lal Marandi, and the former Union Minister, Rita Verma. The BJP's dominance is being challenged for the first time since 1996 by home grown leaders of the rainbow alliance.

The BJP's rallies drew huge crowds whenever the cast of speakers included the likes of Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha. But people in the interior villages remained immune to these crowd pullers.

There is discontentment against the State Government, especially due to the bitter infighting among the alliance partners. The Assembly Speaker, Inder Singh Namdhari, is contesting on the Janata Dal (United) ticket against the BJP nominee, Nagmani. Two more candidates of the JD (U), an alliance partner in Ranchi and New Delhi, are also in the fray after the BJP refused to part with even a single seat. Then there is the All-Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), which has one Minister in the State Government, which is contesting on two seats. But this "revolt" is said to have been engineered by the BJP itself to reduce backward caste consolidation in favour of the rainbow alliance. More embarrassing for the BJP is the campaign against Mr. Yashwant Sinha's "money and crony power" by some RSS leaders in Hazaribagh who include a former MP and an MLA.

The rainbow alliance is also not perfect. The Congress is ranged against the JMM in Kodarma and declined to retire its candidate in Dhanbad in favour of the Marxist Coordination Committee's A.K. Roy. Friendly contests are also on in the other eight seats that go to the polls on April 26. The CPI (ML) Liberation, which could have been a natural alliance partner, is contesting all the six seats going to the polls to gain the Election Commission's recognition as a State party. But unlike the "friendly fights" against the BJP, one of the contestants is generally too weak to spoil the other's prospects.

The MCC along with the People's War (PW) has announced its intentions with a series of landmine blasts and burning down of election offices. On April 6, it triggered a landmine explosion near Ranchi that killed eight policemen while another 21 were killed in the ambush that followed. Since then the State has witnessed almost one violent incident everyday that has sent politicians scurrying to strike deals. No one really knows whether the MCC will accede to requests from politicians for votes in its favour from booths in its area of influence.

Another unknown factor is the migration of landless labourers to other States for work during the harvest season.

Analysts estimate that at least 10,000 eligible voters from each constituency have gone to Punjab and Haryana. Most of them would have voted for the rainbow alliance and in the event of a close contest, their absence could prove fatal for the challengers. On the other hand, the BJP has to bear the cross of liberalisation in the coal belt because of the reduction in the coal miners' provident fund and other cost-cutting measures.

As things stand currently and with the MCC's inclination still a big question mark, the trend disfavours the BJP in Chatra, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad and Palamu. The party, however, is still in the contest in Kodarma and Giridih.

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