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Marandi’s big day

Giridih, Nov. 5: Hectic meetings with party cadre, last-minute talks with strategy managers and dinner with neighbours in Kodaibank.

Babulal Marandi had his hands full on the eve of D-Day.

The former chief minister is fighting his seventh election, but tomorrow’s bypoll for the Koderma Lok Sabha seat is possibly the most crucial of them all.

He won the seat comfortably in 2004, then a BJP candidate, but this time the equations have changed.

Pitted against him are the UPA nominee Manoj Yadav and the BJP’s Pranav Verma. The CPI-ML too is a force.

Marandi seeks to retain his seat on the basis of his image of a “honest man” and a “performer”.

Pranav, a political greenhorn, is seeking votes on the legacy of his father, the late Ritlal Verma, a past winner from the constituency. Yadav has the backing of the RJD and JMM.

For Marandi, the election is crucial for his political future. A victory would be a boost to his vision that the state needs an alternative to the NDA and the UPA and that he is the most able candidate to provide it. A defeat, on the other hand, would mean he has to start from scratch.

“I have an edge over the others. Our cadre will ensure my win,” Marandi said, before leaving for his Kodaibank home, 20 km from Koderma, for dinner with neighbours, an election ritual.

Political observers said it was too close to call.

“The situation is still hazy,” said one. Intelligence agencies, who usually have a pulse of the ground reality, too were unwilling to hazard a guess.

“The UPA was ahead in its campaigns. But will it translate into votes,” said an official.

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