The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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JMM wins bypoll

Poraiyahat (Godda), March 27: The coming together of the Opposition parties, for the first time after the formation of Jharkhand, yielded dividends as the JMM’s Prashant Kumar Mandal defeated BJP candidate Ajit Kumar Yadav in the prestigious Poraiyahat Assembly bypoll by a close margin of 606 votes.

Mandal secured 58,922 of the 1,29,801 valid votes, while Yadav got 58,316. Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Singh of the Bahujan Samaj Party finished a poor third with 4,755 punches in his favour, followed by Independent Sanjeev Mirdha who managed only 1,713.

The seat fell vacant after sitting BJP legislator Pradeep Yadav was elected to the Lok Sabha from Godda. Pradeep Yadav had defeated Mandal, a former MLA, in the Assembly poll for the seat in 2000.

The erstwhile Babulal Marandi government had made “development work” the main poll plank while the JMM focused on the “eyewash” that these promises were. “The JMM victory has negated the BJP’s claim that the government led by it had embarked on a developmental agenda,” a JMM leader said.

Chief minister Arjun Munda tried to underplay his party’s defeat. “In an election, someone will win and someone will lose,” he said in Ranchi. But Janata Dal (United) minister Lalchand Mahto, who led the rebellion against Marandi, said: “It is a slap in the face of the BJP.” Marandi was the BJP’s main campaigner in Poraiyahat.

JMM legislator Durga Soren, the son of party president Sibu Soren, described Mandal’s victory as an outcome of the “vigorous campaigning by the united Opposition”. “The triumph will help give a concrete shape to Opposition unity and we will wipe out the BJP in the Assembly elections,” Soren said.

The unexpected defeat has stumped the BJP as reports of rigging had come in from almost every polling station except those in the tribal pockets. Ajit Yadav’s supporters, who went on the rampage in Godda today after the result was announced, set ablaze a JMM activist’s two-wheeler. Quick intervention by the police controlled the situation.

Observers said the JMM’s victory was an outcome of “acute poll management failure” by the ruling BJP while the party’s caste and community mobilisation strategy also went for a six. “Yadav, who enjoyed the support of his caste brethren, lost due to the polarisation of the tribal and Soundik (the caste to which Mandal belongs) votes in the JMM’s favour. Muslim voters had supported the BJP on the development issue but the party’s votebank was scattered after Babulal Marandi stepped down as chief minister,” they added.

The Parghodih incident, in which Marandi’s motorcade was attacked by arrow-wielding tribals forcing the former chief minister’s guards to open fire near a village market, had sparked panic among the rural voters. “The suppressive attitude of the local BJP leaders, including Pradeep Yadav, generated resentment in the rural pockets,” sources said.

Leader of the Opposition and JMM veteran Stephen Marandi said the result has sent “positive signals” that the BJP could be “thrown out” during the Assembly elections, due in 2005. “Since the formation of Jharkhand, the JMM and the BJP have won one Lok Sabha and one Assembly bypoll seat each. The JMM won Dumka and Poraiyahat while BJP got Godda and Ramgarh respectively. But today’s result has indicated that things are fast changing in favour of the JMM and a united Opposition.”

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