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Internal battle in election war
- Cong nominees slip in rift between 2 Bs

Ranchi, April 18: If grapevine shows which way the wind is blowing, strong rumours of back-stabbing from within Pradesh Congress camp in Jharkhand indicates two things — an electoral rout in the state and factionalism as a face-saver to wiggle out of blame for a dreaded poor show before the May 16 counting.

After two polling days for 10 seats where Congress fielded seven candidates, party workers say internal survey and ground reports reflect a very poor show. And while Shakespeare’s “Et tu Brute” may not find many takers in Jharkhand’s heartland politics, senior Congressmen have started alleging factionalism in the party has only helped strengthen the NaMo wave.

Top party sources confided a cascade of complaints has been pouring into state Congress headquarters about “top party leaders” allegedly working against MP candidates.

In all reports, apparently, former state party chief and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, his close aide and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Dhiraj Prasad Sahu, Barkatha MLA Yogendra Sao and former MLA Manoj Yadav are named.

Existing Pradesh Congress chief Sudarshan Bhagat and predecessor Balmuchu head warring camps. Balmuchu on many occasions publicly called Bhagat a novice who did not deserve to be party president.

Insiders are calling Balmuchu’s Lok Sabha “sabotage” an attempt to discredit Bhagat as unfit to lead the party. In a rejig to resurrect the party’s lost ground in Jharkhand, Bhagat was appointed as state head in 2013 by central leadership much against Balmuchu’s intense lobbying, who wanted an extension. If the party does poorly at the hustings, the former state Congress president would have proven his point.

Balmuchu’s men such as veteran Congressmen Niel Tirkey, Stephen Marandi, K.C. Chatterjee and a few others left the party before Lok Sabha election. Another disgruntled Congressman Manoj Yadav made noises about joining the BJP. Though he finally did not, he hardly campaigned for the Congress. Stephen Marandi joined his now-on, now-off friend Babulal Marandi’s party, the JVM. Niel Tirkey is Ajsu candidate from Khunti.

“Do you think these coincidences are natural? This is not a blame game. But factionalism within the party and personal interest has harmed us. Central leadership has been informed about back-stabbing,” said a senior party leader.

Lok Sabha candidates Subodh Kant Sahay (Ranchi), Saurabh Narain Singh (Hazaribagh), Kalicharan Munda (Khunti) and Chitrasen Sinku (Singhbhum) alleged Balmuchu and his team worked against party candidates. Elections at all these four seats were held yesterday, apart from Giridih and Jamshedpur where Jagannath Mahto and Niroop Mahanty were JMM candidates (UPA alliance).

Sahay, facing stiff anti-incumbency, apparently told Bhagat after polling in Ranchi that Balmuchu “stealthily attempted” to tilt voters of Khijri Assembly segment towards Ajsu’s Sudesh Mahto and canvassing among Christian voters for Bandhu Tirkey of TMC.

Khijri gave crucial votes to Sahay in 2009 election. Sitting Congress MLA Sawna Lakra, serving life at Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi in a murder case, is close to Balmuchu, which may have made it easy for him to swing voters.

From Khunti, Congress candidate Kalicharan Munda sent an SOS to state unit requesting to discipline Balmuchu who allegedly worked for Niel Tirkey. Similarly, from Singhbhum, Chitrasen Sinku complained about getting no cooperation from district unit allegedly at Balmuchu’s behest, though the party appointed the latter as election and campaign in-charge of Singhbhum and Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seats.

Hazaribagh nominee, Saurabh Narain, a royal scion and Hazaribagh sadar MLA, a heavyweight in his own right, also apparently told state and central leadership that Balmuchu aides Sao and Yadav as “inert” and “hostile”.

Bhagat neither confirmed nor denied such complaints.

“After April 24, once elections are over, I will seek reports from individuals and district units about people allegedly working against the party in elections. I will ensure doors are firmly slammed on those who left. The Congress is not a dharmshala where anybody can come and go at their sweet will,” he said.

Asked, Balmuchu dismissed the “baseless allegations”. “I didn’t go to Khunti for campaigns as I wasn’t invited. I am campaigning for the UPA. Tomorrow I leave for Godda. I don’t believe anyone complained against me. There is no question of me working against Subodh Kant Sahay,” he told The Telegraph.