Chief minister Hemant Soren addresses a gathering at Sindhi Chowk in Dumka on Monday night, while Anosh Ekka (seated second from right) looks on. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Dumka, April 22: A desperate JMM has deployed Anosh Ekka in Dumka battlegrounds, playing a “Christian tribal” card to counterbalance JVM chief Babulal Marandi’s attempts to lure members of the community.
The Kolebira MLA was seen sharing the dais with chief minister Hemant Soren at Sindhi Chowk in Dumka town around 10pm yesterday, pitching for JMM patriarch Shibu Soren.
Notably, Jharkhand Party candidate Ekka contested the Khunti seat that went to polls in the second round of voting on April 17.
However, fearing a division of tribal votes in the face of extensive campaigns by Stephen Marandi, an influential Christian tribal leader who joined the JVM just before the polls, the JMM “unleashed” Ekka to maintain party’s stranglehold on the Dumka constituency.
“Shibu Soren is a big leader of tribals, including Sarnas and Christians. Babulal Marandi, who sparked the domicile controversy, could not be trusted,” Ekka told a crowd present at Sindhi Chowk.
His aides said the Kolebira MLA, who is extending external support to the JMM-Congress-RJD government in Jharkhand, visited areas under Sarath, Palojori and Dumka today, till the Election Commission’s curbs on campaigns came into effect this evening.
Though the JMM leadership is trying to polarise Christian tribals — they comprise 1 lakh of over 12 lakh voters — with the help of Ekka, many local residents suggest ed that they did not acknowledge him as a strong leader.
“A large section of the voters here do not know of Ekka. He cannot influence Christian voters as much as Stephen can do,” said a local resident.
Stephen, on the other hand, enjoys a good rapport with churches in Dumka region, which has elected him MLA many a time.
The former deputy chief minister severed ties with the JMM way back and after a stint with the Congress, he recently joined the JVM.
Apparently, JMM MLA Simon Marandi, another tribal Christian leader and a force to reckon with in the region, could have helped the party counter JVM chief Marandi’s attempts.
But, the Littipara legislator, who is also a minister in the Hemant Soren cabinet, has been spewing venom against the party leadership for the last one month, after JMM turned down Simon’s wish to field his son Dinesh William Marandi from Rajmahal.
Further, a disgruntled Simon yesterday openly asked his supporters to vote either BJP or JVM candidate and not the JMM in the neighbouring Rajmahal constituency.
Asked if the JMM would take any action against Simon’s anti-party remarks, party general secretary Supriyo Bhattackarya told The Telegraph, “Party leaders are busy in polls now and he is at Jamtara, campaigning for Guruji. We will take a decision on the issue soon.”
In fact, Hemant’s decision to induct and field Vijay Hansda, a former youth Congress leader and son of former MP late Thomas Hansda, in the Rajmahal constituency also annoyed Hemlal Murmu, who, in turn, joined the BJP to fight against his old party.
The JMM leadership is already paying the price for a lot of decisions it took during this election seasons. Under these circumstances, it hopes the move to deploy Ekka in Dumka doesn’t backfire.