Babulal Marandi interacts with villagers at Tilta on Tuesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, June 6: Babulal Marandi has stepped up campaigning for JVM, braving the scorching sun for the past 11 days to raise hopes of a win for party nominee Ajay Nath Shahdeo in the Hatia by-election on June 12.
Starting with election meetings early in the morning, the JVM president has visited numerous villages, including tiny hamlets, addressing more than 75 public meetings and seeking votes for his Shahdeo, who is also the deputy mayor.
Focusing at the grassroots, Marandi has not shied away from addressing slim crowds of 50 to 100 villagers, stopping his car for handshakes with villagers on the way.
“I have enough time. So, instead of making people assemble, I visit them. It strikes a personal chord and also I get first-hand information about the real problems being faced by them,” he told The Telegraph.
Yesterday, he visited Tilta, a village some 20km from Ranchi under Ratu block, and told his tribal brethren not to fall to the lure of “daru” (liquor) and “murga” (chicken) being offered by his rivals.
He went on to explain how the current government was formed to serve “vested interests”. “If there is a probe, several ministers in the Arjun Munda government will be in Birsa Munda jail, joining Madhu Koda and co,” he said.
Marandi also promised that errant industries would be booked if his party came to power. “CBI put Koda and several former ministers behind bars, but the industrialists who were the main beneficiaries of the deal in granting mining lease for iron ore and minerals are scot-free,” he added.
He also spoke about the condition of government hospitals and how chief minister Arjun Munda preferred a private hospital to the state-run Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment after getting injured in the helicopter crash-landing on May 9.
“Villagers have not yet received ration cards. Schoolchildren are not getting books,” he added.
Apparently stung by the Congress decision to fight the bypoll alone, the former chief minister also targeted the party along with regional outfit Ajsu. “Ajsu has been part of every government since the creation of Jharkhand. But the only policy it espouses is to earn money and use it in elections,” he said.
But, he warned, money cannot be a “game-changer”.
“Money power often boomerangs as it reaches a small section of the electorate, antagonising the masses in general. Sudesh Mahto himself spent huge sums in the last Assembly polls in Silli. Yet, he won by a slender margin against a humble worker of the JVM,” Marandi pointed out.
The JVM supremo said the Congress was solely responsible for price rise.
“It has been the main Opposition in the state but it has never fought for the people,” he added.
Choosing the party symbol for a turn of phrase, Marandi said the comb helped to set right dishevelled hairs. “Similarly, votes for JVM will help us to beautify the state.”
Interestingly, the electorate, mostly tribals, listened but did not cheer him.
“We will see who to vote for when the election takes place,” said Mangara Oraon, an auto driver.
Former JMM leader-turned-dissenter Virendra Bhagat, who is in the fray as an Independent, has also visited Tilta — a tribal hamlet of 100-odd families.
In his 45-minute tour, Marandi also went to nearby Makhmandaro village and met over 100 villagers — tribals and non-tribals — who were waiting under a banyan tree.
Marandi said he concentrated in rural areas till 3pm and returned to Ranchi to visit urban localities in the evening, making door-to-door campaigns and meeting various caste groups, business bodies, et al.
The former chief minister said the JVM was not in the poll fray to marginalise any party or take revenge against Congress.
“Makhmandaro village is hardly 30km from the state capital, off Ranchi-Daltonganj road, and yet devoid of a pucca road,” he said, adding, “We are fighting the elections to serve the interests of Jharkhand.”
Besides Marandi’s hard campaign, the JVM nominee is also banking on the blessings of his second cousin and patriarch of the erstwhile Ratu princely estate, Lal Chintamani Sharan Nath Shahdeo.