The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sympathy key in Suman win

Jamshedpur/Ranchi, Sept. 2: Shibu Soren might have campaigned in rural areas barely four days ahead of the bypoll to win hearts of tribals; a frustrated Salkhan Murmu could come up with allegation of JMM’s “money game” in villages; but it is simply the sympathy wave that swept Suman Mahto ashore with confidence.

BJP candidate Dinesh Sarangi, JVM contestant Bikash Mukherjee and Murmu, the BSP nominee, had to admit that the electorate — no matter which caste and religion they belong to — was moved to go in favour of a woman whose MP husband fell to rebel bullets on the sideline of a football match on March 4.

“Jamshedpur has remained a stronghold of BJP and had it been a normal election, we would have won,” said Sarangi, Mahto’s nearest competitor.

“It is true that people did not vote for JVM. The electorate did not even vote for JMM. It was the widow of a slain MP who got votes,” said Mukherjee. Mahto’s victory has also proved the point that Babulal Marandi’s JVM is still miles away to become a “force to reckon with” in the political arena of the Singhbhum-Kolhan belt.

Murmu was more vocal. “I have come to know that in the last few days some of the Kurmi leaders pumped in huge amount to attract innocent tribals in rural areas.” However, he did not name any Kurmi leader or the amount that was given.

Samajwadi Party candidate Aftab Alam Siddiqui, who contested the election in name of a minority party after resigning from Lok Janshakti Party, also admitted that nothing worked but the sympathy wave.

But BJP’s defeat in the bypoll has exposed the infighting among a section of the top state party leaders, its shrinking vote bank in urban pockets. The party’s performance in the poll could be gauged by the fact that its nominee and legislator Sarangi could not even take a lead in his own Assembly constituency, Bahragora, where Mahto led by over 5,000 votes.

What is more alarming for the party that in the two urban constituencies of Jamshedpur East and West, the party’s show was poor. While in the Jamshedpur (East) segment, BJP led by about 1,000 votes only, in Jamshedpur (West) — represented by veteran BJP leader Sarayu Roy in the Assembly — JMM took a lead of over 10,000 votes.

Soren’s last-minute campaign in rural pockets of the constituency enabled the UPA to ensure tribal votes, which were supposed to go in favour of Marandi.

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