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Old-timers queer JMM pitch
Simon may follow Murmu

Ranchi, March 12: JMM defectors MLA Hemlal Murmu and MP Kameshwar Baitha today joined the BJP and Trinamul Congress, respectively, while Shibu Soren loyalist and Littipara MLA Simon Marandi joined the growing list of disgruntled old-timers, plunging Jharkhand’s leading regional party into one of the worst crises in its history.

Though Simon Marandi (64), the state food and civil supplies minister in the Hemant Soren cabinet, did not announce his exit, he strongly expressed his displeasure against “Shibu Soren’s son”, chief minister Hemant Soren, and his coterie, especially his political advisor Himanshu Shekhar Choudhary.

“Since Choudhary has joined, JMM’s value for devoted and trusted leaders and followers at the grassroots has reduced. I am very distressed and annoyed over the present style of functioning. Few are listening to the advice of guruji (Shibu Soren),” he said.

Marandi was stung when the name of his son Dinesh William Marandi was bypassed in the favour of a rank outsider Vijay Hansdah for the Rajmahal seat. Son of late Congressman Thomas Hansdah, Vijay joined the JMM last week. Before that he was a Youth Congress leader.

“Yes, I proposed Dinesh’s name for the Rajmahal LS seat,” Marandi told The Telegraph. “But what is wrong in it? My minister’s chair is not more important than my son,” he said.

Two-time MP (in 1989 and 1991) and many-time MLA from Santhal Pargana region since 1977, Marandi is known as an outspoken JMM leader.

On his next course of action, he said he would take a final decision soon. “I am going to Rajmahal tomorrow to meet my supporters and get feedback after which I will decide,” he said.

The JMM’s decision to field Vijay from Rajmahal also proved costly as it lost Soren Senior’s trusted lieutenant Murmu. The Barhet MLA, who has been a two-time MP from Rajmahal, was keen to try his luck there this time.

“Poaching” Vijay from the Congress earned JMM the wrath of the grand old party too.

“Yes, I have joined the BJP in Delhi and soon it would be clear if I would contest from Rajmahal or not (on a BJP ticket),” Murmu told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi.

Baitha, a former Maoist who won 2009 elections on a JMM ticket from Palamau, today joined Trinamul. Extremely unhappy that JMM “sold his Palamau Lok Sabha seat” to the Congress, an SC reserved constituency, Baitha had tried his luck with the BJP and met senior leader Arjun Munda at his residence last week. But, talks did not prove fruitful.

Hemant, who appears to be taking most decisions, is pleasing none.

The seat pact made in exchange for Congress support to Hemant as chief minister placed the JMM in an uncomfortable position of having four Lok Sabha tickets to give but too many claimants. The Congress will stake claim to 10 seats.

However, the Congress has only one MP in Jharkhand, the scam-tainted Subodh Kant Sahay from Ranchi. The JMM had two before Baitha defected. Soren Senior is the sitting MP and now nominee from Dumka.

Yesterday, JMM declared nominees for three seats. Party chief Soren apart, the others are Dumri MLA Jagannath Mahto for Giridih and the controversial Vijay for Rajmahal. The party is searching for a suitable candidate for Jamshedpur.

JMM core-committee member Vinod Pandey said the party had not expected such extreme steps from senior leaders who were either MLAs /MPs or ministers. “But in the run-up to elections, such things happen,” he said.

Ex-secy in BJP

Vimal Kirti Singh, former Jharkhand cadre IAS who served in the state as principal secretary, energy department, and in Delhi as resident commissioner till he opted for voluntary retirement early this year joined the BJP today.

Sources said the BJP was considering him for the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat now represented by JVM MP Ajoy Kumar Singh.