Bidyut Baran Mahto interacts with villagers at Haldipokhar in Potka block on Monday. Pictures by Bhola Prasad
BJP’s Jamshedpur hopeful Bidyut Baran Mahto covered 25 villages in Potka Assembly constituency in a span of four hours on Monday, the penultimate day of campaigning before the hot seat goes to polls.
The first stop was local legislator Menka Sardar’s Hata residence, 25km from the steel city, where he arrived to meet the party’s mahila samiti members at 10.25am, 25 minutes behind scheduled time.
When the Potka MLA asked him, “Dada eto late keno holo (Why did you get so late)?”, Mahto responded with a smile and went straight inside where mahila samiti members waited patiently.
BJP’s Potka block president Manoj Ram, however, said Mahto was delayed because of a crucial meeting. “Dada important meeting mein chunav ka rananiti bana rahe the. Isliye late ho gayi. Ghar se toh 8 baje puja kar ke nikal gaye (Dada was chalking out strategies at an important meeting with BJP leaders and got delayed. He had left home on Q-Road in Bistupur after puja at 8am),” said Ram.
He added that senior leaders like Arjun Munda usually briefed Mahto in the morning regarding areas to cover. “Yahan par NaMo ka hawa hai. Thoda late hone se kuch pharak nahin padhta (There is a NaMo wave here. A little delay doesn’t change anything),” Ram said.
After spending 10 minutes with mahila samiti members, the JMM turncoat got into his white SUV and left for Hata Chowk, where 30 bike-borne supporters waited.
At Hata Chowk, Mahto rode pillion in a bike rally through the streets of Potka.
BJP insiders said Mahto had covered all the 25 villages by 3pm and then left for the city to attend mass meetings at Gobindpur, Golmuri, Bistupur and Mango.
“Owing to paucity of time, he could not conduct door-to-door campaigns,” said a supporter.
In Potka, the 60,000-strong Bhumij community plays a crucial role, while the nearly 50,000 Santhal votes get split between JMM and Congress.
“Earlier, Bhumij votes went to JMM, but in 2009, BJP emerged as their favourite. Santhal had traditionally been a JMM vote bank. But, in 2009, their votes split between Congress’s Subodh Singh Sardar and JMM’s Amulyo Sardar. This paved the way for Menka Sardar’s victory,” said Anup Mondal (56), a schoolteacher in Haldipokhar, a locality in the block.
Mondal added that this year JVM was leading in door-to-door campaigns.
“BJP seems to have grown overconfident owing to the NaMo wave and the Bhumij support. They have not undertaken intensive campaigning in this area,” he maintained.
Mahto, on his part, was confidence personified.
“There is a NaMo wave and people know me personally as I have been visiting this area much before elections. I know their problems and can connect with them better. It will not make much difference if I failed to meet every single ,” he said, taking a water break at a Haldipokhar shop.