Congress’s Ranchi candidate Subodh Kant Sahay interacts with the disabled in the capital on Thursday. (Prashant Mitra)
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Ranchi, April 3: How crucial each of Jharkhand’s 14 Lok Sabha seats is to forming the government at the Centre is evident from the marquee line-up in the state this week — Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Lalu Prasad, Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee — with Akhilesh Yadav likely to troop in this weekend.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee will make back-to-back visits in Jharkhand tomorrow and day after to woo voters.
Before this Lok Sabha polls — where BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi desperately wants a clean majority, the UPA is hoping against hope to cobble up a third term and regional and smaller players want enough numbers to play kingmakers — the Jharkhand voter has seldom enjoyed such undivided VVIP attention.
Tomorrow, Sonia is scheduled to hold rally in Ramgarh district town to campaign for Hazaribagh candidate Saurabh Narayan Singh, a scion of the princely family and sitting MLA. Her personal charisma is expected to push her party’s chances in the nine constituencies it is fighting solo and the rest five where it has teamed up with either the JMM or the RJD.
Union minister Jairam Ramesh will be in the state between tomorrow and April 6 to tour various constituencies and hold rallies for Congress candidates.
So far, the Congress has only one sitting MP in the state, former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay in Ranchi.
Today, RJD boss Lalu Prasad visited Palamau to drum up support for RJD candidate Manoj Kumar Bhuiyan as part of the UPA seat-sharing pact, his second campaign visit after March 23.
Mamata, whose party has so far fielded 11 candidates in Jharkhand, and is giving tacit support to Singhbhum’s Jai Bharat Samanta Party candidate Geeta Koda and Khunti’s Jharkhand Party nominee Anosh Ekka, will hold rallies in Ranchi and Dhanbad on Saturday, a day after Sonia’s visit.
Modi visited Jharkhand thrice since December 29, 2013, holding five rallies in Ranchi, Lohardaga, Chatra, Koderma and Palamau Lok Sabha seats, the last four in the span of a week.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and BJP president Rajnath Singh visited Jharkhand on April 1. BJP hardliner Venkaiah Naidu had come on March 24.
Development economist and “neutral political watcher”, Ranchi-based Ramesh Sharan said the national push-and-pull factors were more important this year.
“Jharkhand’s people and local leadership have always been subjected to external political control. It’s a small state with huge mineral resources, which every political party and industry want control over. That’s why Jharkhand’s 14 seats become so important in national politics,” he said.
He added well-known indigenous faces — be it Arjun Munda or Shibu Soren or Babulal Marandi — have their own fan base in pockets. “Regional and national political faces press hard to leverage each others’ popularity for a mutual win-win,” he said.
To cite examples, the Congress and the RJD controlled erstwhile Independent chief minister Madhu Koda’s regime with “outside support”, while Congressman and Union minister Jairam Ramesh is often dubbed “super CM of Jharkhand”.
Also, the dearth of quality candidates, even for a party like BJP that in 2009 won only half of the 14 seats in Jharkhand, resulted in Jamshedpur and Rajmahal tickets for two JMM turncoats, Bidyut Baran Mahto and Hemlal Murmu. So, the dependence on the national NaMo wave becomes greater.