Birendra Bhagat with his supporters outside the district collectorate building in Ranchi on Friday. (Prashant Mitra)
Ranchi, May 25: JMM dissident Birendra Bhagat today filed nomination for the Hatia by-election as an Independent candidate in a last-minute move that may hurt the Ajsu, which was riding on its allyís support for a first-ever win in the Assembly constituency.
Bhagat, who was the JMM nominee in Hatia during the 2009 elections, jumped into the fray after resigning from the party yesterday.
ďI am contesting the by-election seeing the overwhelming support of workers. The district committee (of JMM) had even proposed my name as a candidate for Hatia, but it was rejected,Ē said Bhagat.
With the nomination process closing today, the bypoll promises to be a close fight between Jaiswal, Ramji Lal Sarda (BJP), Ajay Nath Shahdeo (JVM), Sunil Sahay (Congress) and Bhagat.
The JMM had decided against contesting the bypoll, with Hemant Soren promising support to Ajsu nominee Navin Jaiswal.
Ajsu president and fellow deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto had approached Hemant to return the favour to his party by backing Jaiswal for the ruling coalition partnerís support to JMM in the recent Rajya Sabha election.
The political grapevine is now abuzz that Bhagatís nomination might ultimately be a gain for Shahdeo, who also has the support of the Ratu royal family patriarch, Lal Chintamani Sharan Nath Shahdeo.
The entry of Bhagat, an Oraon, is also likely to split the tribal votes.
ďAjsu, which is a regional party, was eyeing the tribal vote bank, more so in the wake of the JMMís official support for its candidate. Congress is facing heat because of the latest petrol price hike. In such a scenario, Shahdeo and Sarda appear most comfortably placed,Ē said an observer.
The Hatia seat had fallen vacant following the death of Congress MLA Lal Gopal Sharan Nath Shahdeo, a scion of the royal family, in 2010.
Bhagat is popular among tribal voters in the area.
In the 2009 election, he had polled 22,173 votes, ending fourth, but not far behind the rest. While Shahdeo had garnered 39,921 votes, Sarda got merely 25 votes less. Jaiswal (Ajsu) was third with 22,847 votes.
Ranchi sub-divisional officer Shekhar Jamuar, also the returning officer, will scrutinise the nomination papers tomorrow. As many as 33 candidates have filed nominations for the June 12 by-election. The nominees can withdraw their candidature between 11am and 3pm on May 28.
The returning officer, with election observers, will also hold a meeting with candidates on May 28.
The constituency has been thrice represented by Congress MP and Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay and twice each by Sarda and Lal Gopal Sharan Nath Shahdeo.