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Toffee bait in open contest

Rajmahal, April 24: Children accompanying voters at model polling booths clamoured for toffees offered by volunteers in Rajmahal seat this morning, starting the day on a festive note as 66 per cent of the electorate braved the heat and voted peacefully across the six Assembly segments.

The mood of voters indicated a close contest between BJP’s Hemlal Murmu and Vijay Kumar Hansda of the JMM but as they say, like cricket, election is also a game of glorious uncertainties.

Informal exit polls suggest polarisation of voter sentiment — divided between BJP’s Hemlal Murmu and his arch-rival JMM’s Vijay — for a variety of reasons.

Manjari Kumari, first-timer voter of Sahebgabj town, made her preference clear without naming names: “I am casting the vote for change. Let’s see if my single vote makes a difference.”

In godforsaken Narayanpur on the outskirts of Rajmahal, Dhananjay Paul rowed a boat to reach his polling booth on the other side of the Ganga with a vague idea of who the 11 candidates in the fray are.

“Should I dance and sing just because today is an election? It makes no difference to me. I have to row back home,” he told The Telegraph when asked who he voted for.

But at Radhanagar, Udhwa, a favourite destination of tourists due to the bird sanctuary, voters dropped broad hints about the polarisation between the BJP and the JMM.

Radhanagar is also an infamous corridor for livestock smuggling to Bengal and Bangladesh. Many affluent Kurmi and Kharwar community members Ramsevak Mandal, Chamaklal Mandal and Sanjay Mandal clearly hinted their preference for BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, if not local candidate Hemlal Murmu.

“It is not a bad idea to give Modi a chance as he promised to stop smuggling of our livestock,” Ramsevak said.

The BJP also seems to have a clear edge in Sahebganj town area.

But the lotus is not so strong in Maheshpur and Pakur Assembly segments where the Congress-backed JMM candidate had clear edge over Hemlal Murmu.

The NaMo wave is also a factor in urban pockets of Pakur. But in the hinterland, the JMM’s formidable presence was quite visible. Also, minority votes stood firmly behind JMM’s Vijay. It appeared JVM candidate Anil Murmu has influenced Muslim votes only in pockets like Lalbathani.

But the BJP claimed it had made “amazing” dents in the Muslim vote bank in Pakur. “My claim will come true on the counting date. At least 15,000 Muslim voters are behind me. It is a huge leap for me,” BJP’s Murmu — till very recently in the JMM — told The Telegraph.


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