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Sadhu rides piggyback on Munda
- Dearth of other star campaigners fails to upset BJP’s Ichagarh nominee

Jamshedpur, Dec. 10: No star campaigner, except Sushma Swaraj, has come to bat for Sadhu Charan Mahto, the BJP nominee from Ichagarh Assembly constituency. But that hardly bothers him. He has Arjun Munda to fall back on.

Crossing over to the rival BJP camp from Congress only a year ago, Mahto managed to bag a ticket for the Assembly polls, thanks to Munda. And now, the former chief minister has become Sadhu’s true godfather and is bent on ensuring a win for his protégé. For Munda, a victory in Ichagarh has become a prestige issue.

The Jamshedpur MP has chalked out a detailed plan to make inroads into the predominantly Kurmi (read Mahto) vote bank in the region. The senior BJP leader is also focusing on Mundas, Santhals and Muslims.

“Mundaji hi kaafi hain. Unki yahan bahut maang hain (Mundaji is enough. He has a lot of demand),” said Sadhu, admitting he is dependent on the charisma of the former chief minister. “Log Mundaji ko dekhna aur sunna chahte hain. Unhe sirf Mundaji hi chahiye (People only want to see and hear Mundaji. They only want him in Ichagarh),” Sadhu, a science graduate, told The Telegraph.

Munda has already toured the constituency several times to seek votes for Sadhu, who is locked in a four-cornered contest against sitting MLA Sudhir Mahto (JMM), Arvind Singh (JVM) and Kartik Mahto (Ajsu).

But things are expected to eventually boil down to a three-way battle among Sadhu, Sudhir and Arvind with Kartik playing spoilsport.

The former chief minister is also scheduled to hold a rally at Jhubri, some 30km from Chandil tomorrow. With three Mahtos in fray, Kurmi votes are expected to be divided. Ichagarh, which falls in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, goes to polls in the fourth phase on December 12.

Sadhu’s presence in the fray has made Sudhir’s task all the more difficult. The former deputy chief minister is sweating out in different blocks to keep his flock together. “Yes, netaji is slogging hard to maintain his grip over voters,” a poll observer said.

With JVM’s Arvind, who has twice won the Ichagarh seat (2000 and 2005), also in the fray, the battle has become more interesting. The contesting nominees have also taken their campaigning to a high pitch.

“Sudhirji jyada Ichagarh mein hi camp kar rahen hain. Din aur raat ek kiye huven hain (Sushirji is camping in Ichagarh. He is slogging really hard),” said one of his confidantes. Same is the case with Singh.

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