Shibu Soren (right) with Simon Marandi (centre) at the JMM chief’s Morabadi home in Ranchi on Tuesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Ranchi, March 11: Beset with internal rift and defections, JMM today announced its Lok Sabha candidates for three seats out of the four under its quota in keeping with its seat-sharing deal with Congress in Jharkhand, holding back its final decision on Jamshedpur.
One a foregone conclusion, the other widely tipped and the third a risk with a newcomer, the three nominees were JMM chief and former chief minister Shibu Soren for Dumka (ST), Dumri MLA and Mahto strongman Jagannath Mahto for Giridih and emerging young leader Vijay Hansda for Rajmahal (ST).
“Guruji (Shibu Soren) will fight from Dumka, Jagannath Mahto from Giridih and Vijay Hansdah from Rajmahal. The decision on Jamshedpur will be clear in the next two-three days,” JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya told The Telegraph this afternoon.
While Soren is sitting MP from JMM stronghold Dumka, Jagannath Mahto’s elevation to Lok Sabha nomination is seen as an effort to appease the Mahto votebank in Giridih.
Vijay, son of former Congress MP and late Thomas Hansda, shifted allegiance to the JMM last week. Vijay’s “poaching” by the JMM earned plenty of raised eyebrows in the Congress camp, with state president Sukhdeo Bhagat calling it “opportunism”.
Bhattacharya kept mum on the Jamshedpur candidate.
But insiders said after JMM veteran Sudhir Mahto’s Sabita Mahto refused to contest Jamshedpur, JMM has few options left. Names of senior party leader in Jamshedpur Ramesh Hansda and JMM Seraikela MLA Champai Soren are doing the rounds.
The induction of Vijay, a former Youth Congress president of Rajmahal, forced Soren loyalist Hemlal Murmu to leave the party. Murmu, who showed his inclination to contest from Rajmahal, is now keen to join the BJP.
Again, the seat-sharing pact with Congress cost JMM another strongman. Sitting MP in Palamau Kameshwar Baitha quit JMM when his seat fell under Congress quota. Baitha met BJP veteran and former chief minister Arjun Munda, hoping for the Palamau ticket.
But the BJP, preparing for its second rally in the state by Narendra Modi by this month-end, made no announcements.
Dumka seat is spread over large tracts of Dumka and Jamtara districts. Soren Senior won this seat in 1980, 1989, 1991, 1996, 2002 (bypoll), 2004 and 2009. JVM chief and former chief minister Babulal Marandi also represented Dumka in Lok Sabha as a BJP candidate in 1998 and 1999.
This Lok Sabha, Congress will support JMM in Dumka. So far, Soren’s bęte noire Marandi has also not said he would contest from Dumka.
Rajmahal, a coveted seat of tribal-dominated Santhal Pargana, is known for neck-to-neck contests, with BJP, Congress and JMM having their own bases. Devidhan Besra of the BJP defeated Hemlal Murmu in 2009.
Giridih seat covers parts of Giridih, Bokaro and Dhanbad. BJP maintained its grip by wining four out of five past polls with Ravindra Kumar Pandey as MP. It remains to be seen if Mahto vote bank can dislodge Pandey.