|JPN Singh and Parimal Nathwani
Ranchi, Jan. 14: If politicians and their parties are getting ready for the February 7 Rajya Sabha elections in Jharkhand, their primary aim will be to ensure an election that steers clear of controversy.
The two seats that will be going to the polls are those that will be vacated by the BJP’s J.P.N. Singh and Independent Parimal Nathwani.
In 2008, Nathwani, associated with Reliance Industries (RIL), won all first preference votes and scuttled the chances of Congress-RJD nominee R. K. Anand.
The 2010 vote was sullied by allegations of wrongdoing after a television channel aired a sting that purportedly showed six MLAs selling their Rajya Sabha election votes to the highest bidder. The CBI is now probing the allegations.
In 2012, the Rajya Sabha elections were first countermanded after Rs 2.15 crore cash was seized from a vehicle linked to a candidate R.K. Agrawal, a prominent businessman of Jamshedpur. Now, in Birsa Munda jail, the former chief of the Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industry is being probed by the CBI.
In the by-elections that followed, Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu of the Congress and Sanjeev Kumar of the JMM were declared winners
Going by what happened in 2010 and 2012, the biggest challenge for the parties will be to eliminate all possibility of horse-trading during the biennials.
But the elections, as always, will be keenly fought. Given the existing composition of the Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha, no single party can ensure the victory of its candidate on its own.
While the BJP and JMM have 18 MLAs each, the Congress has 13 representatives, JVM 11, Ajsu 6, RJD 5, and JD(U) 2. This apart, there are six representatives from regional outfits and two Independent MLAs.
Vidhan Sabha joint secretary Madhukar Bhardwaj said that even if all the 81 elected representatives exercised their franchise and all votes were valid, the winning candidates would need at least 28 first preference votes.
“It all depends on how many candidates remain in the fray and how many members cast valid votes. The second preference votes, too, may be crucial,” he added.
The ruling alliance partners are hopeful of winning both seats. JMM central committee member Supriya Bhattacharya argued that after having parted ways with the BJP, the JD (U) may be voting in favour of UPA nominees. Earlier, too, the Ajsu had voted for the JMM candidate.
“Our party is interested in fielding a candidate. We will be talking to various political parties. Winning both the seats is no big deal for the UPA, since it already enjoys the support of Independents and regional party MLAs,” he said.
State Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat maintained they would be fielding a candidate. “We will hold detailed discussions with our central leaders. Thereafter, we will also be talking to our alliance partners. I will be there to take part in the January 17 AICC meeting,” he added.
State BJP president Ravindra Kumar Rai said the issue would be discussed extensively at the meeting of the party’s national executive in Delhi, also on January 17, followed by a meeting of the national council on January 18 and 19.
“I agree BJP can’t win a seat on its own. But, we want free and fair polls and our actions would be transparent,” he said.
JVM chief Babulal Marandi was sceptical of a clean Rajya Sabha poll in Jharkhand.
“The Rajya Sabha biennials have been under cloud because of business tycoons, who have little stake in state politics but easily get elected to the upper House,” he said, adding that he would soon hold a meeting with party colleagues to work out a strategy for the polls.