Hazaribagh, March 25: The coveted Hazaribagh parliamentary constituency is known to be a BJP stronghold. But this time, the party is facing a strong challenge from its old friend-turned-foe Loknath Mahto, who is in the fray on the Ajsu ticket against newbie Jayant Sinha — the son of sitting BJP MP Yaswant Sinha.
Mahto, who is expected to file his nomination papers tomorrow, is seeking to dent the BJP votes, banking on the support of the Koyri community.
Sources said Mahto, who left the BJP along with another veteran leader Deo Dayal Kushwaha last year owing to differences with former external affairs minister Sinha, commanded respect in the area because of his clean image.
Moreover, around 4.5 lakh out of over 14 lakh voters in the constituency are Koyris — a big factor that prompted the Ajsu to field Mahto from this saffron seat.
A popular koyri leader, Mahto won the Barkagaon seat thrice in the past before losing it to Congress’s Yogendra Sao in the 2009 Assembly elections. He is leaving to stone unturned to trounce the BJP greenhorn, and settle the scores with veteran BJP leader Sinha.
With Senior Sinha not contesting the polls this time, the Ajsu is asking people to vote for Mahto — “a simple man who didn’t get due respect in the BJP”.
“I am contesting the election to ensure development of Hazaribagh. I do not care about Jayant or anyone. I am a simple man and the people here know my working style. One can visit Barkagaon and see what I did during my 15-year tenure,” said Mahto.
Despite being a newcommer, Jayant is not worried.
“I don’t care about who all are in the fray. I am ready with a six-point action plan that I will implement for overall development of the constituency if I win. People will elect a capable and qualified leader in this election.
BJP leaders claimed that Mahto was nowhere in the contest and he would realise his mistake of leaving the party after the counting. “People will never trust a regional party, like Ajsu,” they added.
Countering BJP’s claims, Ajsu leaders said Mahto was a prominent leader in Hazaribagh and a known face that would help him.