BJP’s Ramtahal Choudhary with his winning certificate outside the Pandra counting centre in Ranchi on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Most would call it overconfidence. The wise would see it as conviction spurred by circumspection.
Ramtahal Choudhary, BJP’s sexagenarian war horse who had affixed a nameplate reading “Sansaad (member of Parliament) Ranchi Lok Sabha” outside his Ormanjhi residence on Thursday night, hours before the counting even began, had perhaps meticulously weighed the NaMo punch that would land heavily on sitting Congress MP Subodh Kant Sahay.
Ramtahal, who was much less visible during campaign days unlike his rivals from the JVM (Amitabh Choudhary), Ajsu (Sudesh Mahto) and TMC (Bandhu Tirkey), besides Subodh Kant who had wife and daughter in tow, amassed over 4.48 lakh votes to win by a monumental margin of 1.99 lakh.
“Whoever works shall win. Today is the victory of my party,” said the MP-in-the-making whose first stop on Friday was a temple in Ormanjhi at 6am followed by a similar drill at the Kali Mandir on Main Road at 8.30am.
A four-time MP from Ranchi, Ramtahal had won in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999 before losing the seat to Subodh Kant in the last two general elections. In 2009, he had finished second with 2,97,149, while the Congress heavyweight had notched 3,10,499.
Just like the new MP, the city too rode the crest of the BJP wave much before results were declared for the prestigious Ranchi seat. People woke to an eyeful of banners and posters featuring Narendra Modi and Ramtahal, and screaming the country’s largest single party’s new punchline, “lijiye aa gayi Modi sarkar”.
A much-hyped multi-cornered contest fizzled out in a jiffy soon after counting began at 8am on Friday because the anti-BJP forces ate into each other’s vote bank, giving the winning party an edge from the start.
Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto, who was touted as Subodh Kant’s dummy, ended up bagging traditional Congress votes — mostly Dalits and Adivasis — in Silli and Ichagarh Assembly segments. JSCA boss Amitabh, who was JVM’s best bet after party chief Babulal Marandi, only added to Subodh Kant’s woes.
“I still wonder why they stood (contested the polls). Amitabh garnered some support on the basis of (doling out) cricket passes and money power. Sudesh ate up my traditional Adivasi and Dalit votes. Kurmi votes remained intact,” said Subodh Kant, who conceded defeat at 3pm with six rounds of counting still left to go.
He dubbed Ramtahal “the biggest disaster” Ranchi could ever have. “I still cannot believe someone like him, who vanishes after victory and is rarely seen beside people in trouble, won. BJP scored through the propaganda that Sudesh was my dummy,” he rued.
Subodh Kant was the lone Congress MP who for the past year and half was in the news for all the wrong reasons — from the Coalgate controversy to mayoral poll cash haul. Pending tourism projects and the multi-crore mega food park, which he launched as a Union tourism minister earlier, only aggravated his loss.
The anti-incumbency factor against the Congress — both in Ranchi and countrywide — perhaps was the final nail on the coffin that mercilessly buried the sitting MP’s third term dreams.
The BJP, on the other hand, didn’t lose much. Despite the split in vote bank in a multicornered contest, the party’s prospects were cushioned by a chunk of new voters.
“Aaj toh khub daru murga chalega, Sir. (It will be a big bash today, Sir),” one of this bodyguards mirrored the mood at the party camp.
TMC candidate Bandhu Tirkey, who trailed in the fifth position, sounded despondent. “Ab aur kya bole (What else do I say)? I was confident of second or third position,” he said.
Neither Sudesh, who returned from Dubai on Friday morning, nor Amitabh could be reached over phone. Perhaps the CSK’s Sunday fireworks can cheer up the two sports enthusiasts now.