The Telegraph
 
CIMA Gallary

Identity crisis grips turncoats

Rajmahal, April 21: In Jharkhand, if turncoats get rewarded with tickets, troubles also tag along.

If rival MP nominees for Rajmahal, the BJP’s Hemlal Murmu and the JMM-cum-UPA combine’s Vijay Hansdah could sit together and discuss woes, they would have discovered both were aliens in their new parties.

One of JMM founder members and a Shibu Soren loyalist for three decades, Barhet MLA Hemlal Murmu switched tracks to BJP a month ago when he felt insulted by chief minister Hemant Soren’s decision to induct Youth Congress leader Vijay as JMM’s MP nominee from Rajmahal. That Vijay is the son of late Congressman Thomas Hansdah, Murmu’s long-time political rival, did not help matters.

Murmu, who knocked on BJP doors, found an enthusiastic welcome, particularly from former chief minister and BJP senior leader Arjun Munda, complete with marigold garlands and a Rajmahal ticket.

Now, Murmu is finding out that even marigold garlands have thorns.

First, Murmu just hasn’t had time to familiarise himself with the BJP party workers.

Second, Murmu, who has had a long-time association with the JMM’s anti-diku movement, finds himself surrounded by “outsiders”.

A tribal party, the JMM waged a long war against non-tribal outsiders, especially money-lenders and traders, who the party felt exploited unlettered tribals. Now, the very spine of the BJP is the trading diku community. Both Murmu, as BJP nominee, and the traditional BJP vote bank in Rajmahal, are left facing each other warily.

Third, Murmu is finding it difficult to convince tribals that he has switched over to the BJP. “Tribals associate faces with symbols. For generations, Hemlal Murmu was a bow-and-arrow man. Now, suddenly he is urging voters towards the lotus. People are confused,” resident Bhudeo Kumar said, but added the NaMo wave would help Murmu.

The compass of popular sentiment isn’t clear. It doesn’t help that Rajmahal, with six Assembly segments, has 13.27 lakh voters with an evenly balanced population of Muslims, Hindus and tribals, mainly Paharias.

Murmu visited BJP party office at Chowk Bazar in Sahebganj town today. When local mediapersons sought a response on JMM’s barbed criticisms — “bad blood, corporate agent and BJP ka naya baniya” — he said: “JMM is father-son party. Narendra Modi is everywhere. Even Muslims will vote for the BJP. The fact I am in the BJP makes no difference to Muslims as I have worked for them.”

UPA’s Vijay, an emerging state Youth Congress leader before he joined the JMM, has ruffled too many feathers. Though both parties have joined hands apparently to field a common candidate, few are helping out Vijay’s campaign.

Congressmen are angry that Hemant poached him, while JMM diehards consider him an outsider.

Former Congress MLA and local strongman Alamgir Alam hasn’t campaigned for him to swing minority votes. Also, the din of protest voiced by JMM’s Littipara MLA Simon Marandi — “defeat Vijay is the only slogan this election” — is also too loud and clear to miss.

Rajmahal votes on April 24