|(From top) JMM candidate Niroop Mahanty and wife Rupa flash the victory sign outside DBMS Girls’ High School on Thursday, while BJP contender Bidyut Baran Mahto casts his vote at Krishnapur in Gamharia. Sitting JVM MP Ajoy Kumar poses with a group of supporters in Mango. Pictures by Animesh Sengupta
They are rivals with differing political ideologies and beliefs. But on Vote Thursday, all three were bound by the common feelings of excitement, nervousness, optimism and, of course, piety.
It was examination time for JVM’s sitting MP Ajoy Kumar, BJP challenger Bidyut Baran Mahto and JMM nominee Niroop Mahanty as the prestigious Jamshedpur seats went to polls after days of hectic electioneering that saw them trying to outdo each other in wooing voters.
That competitive spirit showed itself on the day of the election as well, as each tried to weigh his position on the scales of public favour.
“Sahi jagah vote mara na (You punched the correct button, right?),” Kumar asked a voter at Siksha Niketan School, Telco, where he had turned up to exercise his franchise.
The former SP, who turned up at the booth at 7.40am, also said a little prayer at Beldih Kalibari in Bistupur, where he spent a good 15 minutes in the morning.
“I think the voting trend is good and on my side. I am getting favourable feedback from both urban and rural segments,” the sitting MP said.
For the next few hours till around 3pm, he was on a marathon round of booths.
Bidyut, who is looking to wrest the JVM bastion on a NaMo wave, claimed he had read the popular pulse the night before.
“Raat bhar dehat ka daura kiya. Aaj subah chhay baje ghar lauta. Bahut thak gaya hoon. Socha thoda aaraam kar loon (Toured the rural belt the whole night. Came home at 6am and was very tired. Thought of taking rest),” said the 51-year-old JMM turncoat who remained anchored at his Bistupur home all morning.
He, finally, left to vote at Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya at Krishnapur, 12km away in Gamharia block of Seraikela-Kharsawan district that falls under Singhbhum Lok Sabha constituency, around 10.45am.
Except his younger daughter Shalini, a minor, the entire family — wife Usha, mother Sushila Devi, son Kunal, daughter Shalini and elder sister Shefali — voted.
“Bas Jamshedpur jaa rahan hoon. Booth par jaunga. Shahar aur dehat se mere prati achcha rujaan dekhne ko mil rahan hain (Well, I’m headed for Jamshedpur. I will visit the booths there. Voting is in my favour in urban and rural areas),” he said.
Compared to his rivals, Mahanty had a tougher time. No, not in gauging the public mood, but finding his name on the voter list.
Without slips but armed with SMSes sent by the EC, the JMM nominee and wife Rupa turned up at the booth at DBMS Girls’ High School in Kadma around 7.30am after performing puja at home.
But the couple was stunned when the polling official told them that their names were missing from the list and suggested that they check at the booth at Loyola School.
“But I have received an SMS from the EC, which says that we are supposed to vote here. Please re-check the list,” Mahanty urged the polling agent, albeit in vain.
The Mahantys then decided to head to Loyola School but thought of checking their serial numbers, which are mentioned on voter slips, with the party agents. There they found their names on the list and went back to DBMS school.
“Yes, we found our voter serial numbers. All’s well that ends well,” said a relieved Rupa. “We will stand in the queue and vote when our turn comes,” said Mahanty, the former vice-president (HR) of Tata Steel, who finally had a shot at the EVM at 7.50am.
So how optimistic is he of winning?
“I am getting positive feedback from all six Assembly segments. Let’s see what happens,” he said before leaving.
After a brief stopover at his Circuit House Area residence, Mahanty dropped in at booths across the city and rural fringes just like his competitors.