Ranchi, March 27: Khunti parliamentary seat, a traditional BJP stronghold near the state capital, is heading towards a multi-cornered battle this year with a number of prominent faces trying to dethrone sitting MP and former deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha Karia Munda.
Munda has won five out of the six previous polls. In 2009, he defeated Congress’s Niel Tirkey by a margin of over 80,000 votes.
But this time, lack of development and unabated bloodshed have apparently put him on shaky ground.
“Karia is an old war horse, who first won the seat in 1977 as a Janata Party nominee. However, quite a few potential candidates are in the fray who may change the equation. Divisions of votes amongst other may help Karia, but there are allegations that he has not done enough for the area, which has the worst crime records in the past few years,” said Rajendra Kumar, a native of rebel-affected Khunti district, who closely watches political developments.
Khunti has been badly affected by Maoists and their splinter groups, like PLFI, who have been a major hurdle for peace and development. Apart from them, several criminal gangs are active in the area.
In 2013 alone, Khunti district recorded as many as 495 incidents of violence, including 109 murders. The corresponding figures for 2012 stood at 461 and 126, respectively.
“It is not going to be an easy sailing for the incumbent BJP MP,” said another local resident of Khunti.
Pitted against Karia this time are Jharkhand Party’s Kolebira MLA Anosh Ekka, former Tamar MLA Kalicharan Munda of the Congress, tribal activist-turned-politician Dayamani Barla, who is in the fray as AAP nominee, and the last but not the least, former Simdega MLA Niel Tirkey, who recently joined the Ajsu.
The Scheduled Tribe reserved seat includes parts of five districts — Khunti, Simdega, Seraikela-Kharsawan, Ranchi and Gumla — and is home to sizeable population of tribals, both Christians and Sarnas, the potential kingmakers. Tribals comprise 60 per cent of around 11 lakh voters.
A visit to Tamar suggests that Anosh, a one-time cabinet colleague of former chief minister Madhu Koda, who faces graft charges and is currently out on bail, has been active in the region for the past one year or so.
Anosh enjoys good relations with the Christians. However, the community members this time may decide to vote for the Congress candidate.
Congress’s Kalicharan, the elder son of late T. Muchirai Munda, a prominent leader of the region, has represented the Tamar Assembly seat twice in the past, but he is trying his luck in a larger political arena for the first time.
Former Congress MLA Tirkey has been harbouring hopes to get a party ticket from the seat. But Kalicharan bagged the opportunity, prompting Tirkey to join Sudesh Mahto’s Ajsu Party recently.
He is also trying to poach some Congress workers.
AAP nominee Barla has been a popular face in Torpa and Kamdara areas of Khunti and Gumla districts, respectively, due to her crusades against land acquisition and displacement.
She even took on steel giant ArcelorMittal. She was active against the state government’s move to allow construction on agricultural land in Nagri near Ranchi to set up a permanent campus of IIM-Ranchi.
However, she is representing a party (AAP) which is yet to establish itself as an alternative political force in the region. Whether the 50-year-old manages to turn all good work into votes time will say.
These apart, JVM nominee Basant Kumar Longa is another prominent candidate from the constituency and may dent the BJP vote bank.