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Mahto votes may spoil BJP game

Ranchi, April 11: Arjun Munda may have declared that the BJP would win three of the four seats that went to polls yesterday, but the real test for the BJP lies in the second round wherein two constituencies could prove to be a hard bargain.

Caste politics might upset the game for Munda and his party bosses in Ranchi and Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seats, currently held by the Congress and BJP, respectively, as a lot depends on whom the powerful Kurmis-Mahtos choose to vote for.

In Ranchi, already crowded with a number of heavyweights, the BJP has fielded Ram Tahal Choudhary, who once virtually had a monopoly over the Kurmi-Mahto vote bank.

But a certain Sudesh Mahto is now threatening to make a dent into the party’s prospects in the coveted seat. Something Munda is well aware of and hence, chose to extensively campaign in the Ajsu president’s traditional stronghold — Patrahatu in Silli Assembly segment — with party president and mentor Rajnath Singh today.

In contrast, the Hazaribagh seat is already with the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha, who has stepped aside this time for his Harvard-educated son Jayant.

But here too, another Mahto, Loknath Mahto — a former BJP heavyweight of the area who crossed over the fence to Ajsu camp — might upset the scales.

Analysing the situation, a senior BJP leader said: “Arjun Munda has to take a major portion of the blame if both Choudhary and Jayant fail to win in the Lok Sabha polls. It’s no secret that the former chief minister does not have good terms with Choudhary or Yashwant Sinha (Jayant’s father). Hence, he may be accused of back-stabbing his party candidates in Ranchi and Hazaribagh, in particular, if they lose.”

According to him, Rajnath Singh would also lose his credibility to a large stake given the fact that he had played an “autocrat’s role” at every stage starting from selection of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, ticket distribution, appointment of poll managers, finalising important campaigns and so on.

“No wonder, Munda is going all out to campaign for Choudhary and Jayant. Today, he addressed five election meetings in Hazaribagh constituency before heading to Silli with Singh. Before Silli, Singh attended rallies in different parts of Singhbhum, Khunti, Giridih and Dhanbad constituencies,” pointed out another leader.

“Choudhary knows that Sudesh Mahto will create a division in Mahto votes and at internal meetings urged his party superiors to turn up for him. Similarly, in Hazaribagh, Yashwant Sinha expects the BJP central leadership to make serious efforts to ensure his son’s victory,” the leader added.

Munda, however, put up a brave face.

“Our assessments say that we are going to win at least three seats in the first round. We may even win all four — Koderma, Palamau, Lohardaga and Chatra. If this trend persists in the second round (April 17) also, we will be bettering our 2009 record of winning in eight parliamentary seats. More victories in the third round will further strengthen Jharkhand’s stake in national politics,” he told The Telegraph.

Reacting to the BJP’s campaign blitzkrieg, Ajsu spokesperson Deo Sharan Bhagat said: “Political parties are free to hold election meetings. We too have held several meetings in BJP strongholds. My only request is that they should not make comments that will affect social harmony.”


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