It is said that to win rebel-hit Lok Sabha constituency Giridih, with over 90 per cent booths dubbed sensitive or super-sensitive, along with urban, wealthy pockets of Dhanbad and Bokaro, one needs the backing of four Ms — Maoists, Mahtos, Muslims and Manjhis.
Seventeen candidates are in the fray in Giridih this time, but the triangular contest is arguably among BJP’s sitting MP Ravindra Pandey, Jagannath Mahto of the JMM (UPA) and JVM’s Saba Ahmad.
Big three apart, notables include former Jharkhand minister and state JD(U) chief Jaleshwar Mahto, TMC candidate and Supreme Court lawyer Ashutosh Verma and Ajsu supremo Sudesh Mahto’s father-in-law Dr U.C. Mehta.
The picturesque seat, with booths dotting hillocks Parasnath, Lugu and Sewati, belies the simmering tensions within.
Since past two decades, Giridih has played ping-pong in either JMM or BJP camps, but in the past five polls, BJP won four. This time, the UPA combine is hoping to bag all secular votes.
The numbers are huge. This unique parliamentary seat comprising districts of Giridih, Bokaro and Dhanbad has Kurmi-Mahto and Muslim electorate of 30 per cent and 21 per cent, together over half the voters. Manjhis make up 15 per cent of voters.
Broadly, these three factions vote en mass.
Maoists are not pinned down to percentages, but their direct or tacit influence in Tundi (Dhanbad), Dumri (Giridih), Bermo (Bokaro), Gomia (Bokaro) and Giridih Assembly seats, can make or break a candidate. It is an open secret that Maoists raise levy from cash-rich contractors, traders, transporters and businessmen in coal and mining belts.
Intelligence Bureau reports say leaders across party lines try to win Maoists in every election. Allegedly, many party leaders are offering big money to zonal commander Ajay Mahto this year too.
Though the 1990s were dominated by JMM MPs, including statehood stalwart late Binod Behari Mahto and his son Raj Kishore and in 2004, JMM’s Tek Lal Mahto of Mandu (Hazaribagh) won despite the outsider tag, BJP’s sitting MP Pandey exuded confidence.
“I won Giridih four times. Plus, this is the year of NaMo. No one can stop me from winning,” Pandey said.
JMM (UPA combine) candidate Jagannath Mahto, the Dumri MLA and local strongman who does not shy from controversies, said he was “not very rich”.
“I am not spending unnecessary money to win votes. But, I know every community will vote for me. Mahtos, Muslims and Manjhis are with me. I am the UPA candidate and people have seen my work as Dumri MLA. I will win,” he said.
JVM candidate Saba Ahmad said voters knew what they wanted. “In Jharkhand, there’s a JVM wave,” he said. “Though I lost last time, this year voters of all sections of society will vote for me,” he said.