BJP’s Jamshedpur nominee Bidyut Baran Mahto addresses villagers in Baharagora on Wednesday
Bidyut Baran Mahto, former JMM legislator from Baharagora and present BJP hopeful from Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat, won’t be faulted for an inferiority complex.
His new party is banking heavily on its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi instead of him to curry favour in pockets of Jamshedpur East and West — the two urban Assembly segments under the parliamentary constituency. The BJP — and perhaps Mahto too — is aware that the candidate lacked visibility in the elite belt and may not be able to contribute the needed leverage to wrest the hot seat from JVM.
Unlike Mahto, sitting MP Ajoy Kumar and his JMM challenger Niroop Mahanty are “familiar figures” in the steel city. Kumar is not just known for his stint as a super cop here in the Nineties, he has also developed a good Samaritan image since he won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Mahanty, on the other hand, is well known in corporate circles and is likely to draw maximum votes from the business community.
To hurt the BJP candidate where it hurts most, residents of the city couldn’t care less who the nominee is. For them, the party has become synonymous with NaMo.
Said Kadma resident Surender Sharma: “I would have voted for anyone in the name of NaMo. In fact, I wouldn’t have backed the BJP had Modi not been the prime ministerial candidate.”
Telco homemaker Anjali Singh added insult to injury. “For me, BJP is Modiji. I have no idea who Mahto is. I have never taken interest in his profile,” she said.
Senior BJP leader Sarayu Roy conceded said that the party had been able to create a vote bank in the name of Modi in Jamshedpur. “There is a NaMo wave here and who the candidate is doesn’t really matter. I think we have voter edge in this seat,” Roy, a former MLA from Jamshedpur West, said.
Poll observer R.M. Sinha couldn’t agree more. “He (Mahto) will have to do a piggy-back ride. People will vote for the BJP, but for Modi.”
So, what does the 51-year-old wannabe BJP MP have to say about playing second fiddle?
“Jamshedpur is my birthplace. I have an emotional attachment with the city. But, it is true that I have been more active in the rural belt for the past 15 years,” Mahto, who is focussing more on pockets like Potka, Baharagora and Ghatshila, said. He added: “There is NaMo wave in the entire country. All BJP candidates are taking advantage of this. Only the BJP can develop Jharkhand, which is why I left JMM.”
Introspective perhaps, he is bang on target because the hinterland is his only connect given his earlier stint as Baharagora MLA. However, the city is on his agenda too. “I wish to make Jamshedpur an educational hub to stop exodus of bright students,” he said.
A BJP district unit functionary too confirmed Mahto’s distinctive itinerary. “Our candidate is spending maximum time in rural areas since we have taken over the campaign in Jamshedpur. He needs to concentrate in villages.”
The party’s district president Rajkumar Srivastav was the only voice of urban hope. “Bidyut was born and brought up in the city. He lives in Bistupur, unlike Ajoy Kumar who came here from Bangalore. Kumar will leave the city once he is humbled in the polls. Bidyut has the support of Mahtos,” he said.
What should Mahto do to boost his urban popularity?