BJP’s Ramji Lal Sarda interacts with villagers at Bara Khuta in Nagri block, Hatia, on Thursday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, June 7: The lack of a clear winning trend in the June 12 Hatia bypoll makes it a psephologist’s nightmare, but for the BJP, it is a do-or-die battle for which partymen have buried their internal feuds and egos to present a united front before the electorate.
The strife-ridden BJP, cornered by defeat in Jamshedpur, “humiliation” in the Rajya Sabha poll, and facing the heat of the political oxymoron called rival allies (read Ajsu), is cobbling up a picture-perfect unity to ensure a win in Hatia.
Though the BJP faces competition from the Congress — the party’s Gopal Nath Shahdeo had won the seat in 2009, which fell vacant after he died in 2010 — it is an open secret that workers at the lower rungs are unhappy with candidate Sunil, Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay’s younger brother.
The BJP, however, has thrown its weight behind nominee Ramji Lal Sarda.
Bedridden chief minister Arjun Munda issued an emotional speech to the electorate via a VCD today, expressing his “deep regret over my inability to visit voters personally” and urging people to vote for Sarda to keep the “development process in Jharkhand on track”.
Munda’s detractors, including Raghubar Das, have temporarily buried differences to campaign for Sarda, who was defeated in the 2009 Assembly elections by a slender margin of 25.
Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, currently in the US, will campaign in the last leg from June 9.
“We were demoralised after the defeat in Jamshedpur, the chief minister’s home turf. Then, we faced humiliation in the Rajya Sabha poll. So, leaders and cadres have joined hands to ensure that the BJP wins in Hatia. We have to regain lost ground,” said a former BJP minister, requesting anonymity.
He said one debacle after other drove home the message to warring leaders that they would be able to survive only on the strength of the party. Deliberately, then, there is no showcasing of any larger-than-life personality cult.
Sarda (69), who underwent a bypass surgery six months ago, is touring his constituency extensively but without fanfare.
“Around a dozen persons, including my bodyguard, faced heat stroke, but I am okay,” he told The Telegraph. The man who represented the constituency thrice since 1990 had unsuccessfully fought the 2005 elections as a BJP rebel when he was denied a ticket.
Right now, he is humility personified.
“I have been a farmer, retailer, wholesaler. In politics, I have rendered service to people all along instead of making money. My rivals spend crores. I just seek one vote from each person with folded hands to serve the people for the remaining two-and-a-half years,” he said.
Though two Bihar ministers — Giriraj Singh and Ashwani Choubey — have campaigned for Sarda, no big-ticket leader from Delhi has arrived. The focus is on presenting a united front and strengthening the party’s network at the grassroots to woo voters.
“We don’t deploy central leaders in a bypoll. The Bihar ministers are persons who are emotionally connected with people here. That is why we invited them. Otherwise, we are banking on leaders such as Sinhaji, Dasji, Deepak Prakash, among others,” said state BJP president Dineshanand Goswami, admitting that they were “missing Mundaji” — rendered MIA due to injuries from his copter crash-land on May 9.
Insiders said that the BJP was faced with a unique dilemma. In Ranchi, it needs alliance partner Ajsu for a stable government. In Hatia, Ajsu — identified with backward classes and rural voters —is a rival with whom the BJP wants to lock horns with to polarise urban voters completely in its favour.
Munda, however, steered clear of any references to his allies in his speech.
He told people he was unable to be among them due to his injuries. Then, he targeted the UPA-led central government for the spiralling price rise, corruption, job cuts and for “not giving value-based royalty for minerals”.
Locally, Munda touched upon the anti-encroachment drive on HEC campus, dubbing it a Centre’s ploy to tarnish the state government’s image.
The HEC is a strong vote base of Subodh Kant Sahay. “Hum ghar banate hain, kisi ko beghar nahi karte hain (We build homes, we don’t make anyone homeless),” Munda said.
Goswami went a step ahead, claiming credit for the failed HEC anti-encroachment drive.
“It failed because the state government did not provide forces despite the Centre’s repeated pleas. We saved people’s homes,” he said.
But even Goswami had to admit that the electoral picture was not clear.