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Biggies show up to woo voters
- After Modi, Rahul to prepare ground for battle

Gumla, March 28: If Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial pick, blew the war bugle here yesterday, Congress’s Rahul Gandhi is coming to the constituency on April 1 to heat up the poll turf further.

Welcome to Lohardaga, the centre of a triangular battle.

Modi’s rally in Gumla yesterday pepped up the poll campaign in this constituency, where the BJP risked fielding its sitting MP Sudarshan Bhagat despite strong opposition from a sizeable section of party workers.

Modi’s arrival though helped mobilise party workers, the overall perception about Bhagat is still a cause for concern. But workers know each seat will be crucial to elevate Modi to the post of the Prime Minister.

“Sudarshan ko jitana majboori hai, kyun ki Modi bahut jaruri hai (To help Sudarshan win is a compulsion because Modi is important),” said Santosh Kumar, a local BJP leader of Sisai.

“Bhagat has done nothing for the area to showcase during the polls,” he added.

Bhagat, nevertheless, rubbished the allegations. “I have raised questions about human trafficking. There is no proper irrigation facility in Lohardaga. I raised in the House the matter of Sankh reservoir irrigation project, which is pending from the last 30 years,” he claimed.

According to sources, party workers are trying hard to woo Sadan population to put Bhagat in a comfortable position. But for Bhagat, who had won the last elections with a waferthin margin against former Independent Chamra Linda, it is going to be a tough battle.

Bishunpur MLA, Linda, who recently joined hands with the TMC, started his political career as a student leader of Adivashi Chatra Sangh. He rose to prominence riding on the “Sarna issue”.

Sarna tribals, who hate to be treated as Hindu or Christian, are fighting for a distinct identity and demanding a separate “Sarna Code”.

As an Independent, Linda had lost the 2009 Lok Sabha election. However, he bagged the Bishunpur seat in the 2009 Assembly polls due to overwhelming support of the Sarnas, who hold the key this time too.

But the situation has changed since 2009. Adivashi Chatra Sangh has got alienated from Linda, while his core electoral plank, “Sarna Code”, has lost its steam.

“He has joined hands with those who have been denying Sarnas their rights,” said Vikash Oraon, an activist.

Prarthana Samaj, the largest outfit representing Sarnas, is also reluctant to extend support to Linda.

“We have not decided whom to support. But Linda is not at par with our expectations,” the head of Samaj Bandhan Tigga said.

If Sarnas ultimately snub Linda, Congress nominee Rameswar Oraon will benefit.

It was the Congress which insisted on including the “Sarna Code” in the “common minimum programme” of the coalition government led by JMM to win over the group.

The former MP, who lost the seat to BJP’s Bhagat in 2009 due to division of votes by Linda, is hoping to regain the lost turf.

Party workers believe the Congress vice-president’s rally in Gumla on April 1 would tilt the balance towards Oraon. “Let him (Rahul) come and see how the equation changes,” said Putul Kumar, a Congress worker.