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BJP backs Lakra for mayor

The BJP has decided to pitch its state unit general secretary Asha Lakra for the mayor’s post while rival Congress announced its decision to offer “moral support” to Rama Khalkho, who was among the two candidates to file nominations for the June 23 contest on Monday.

Although the state unit of BJP is yet to come out with a formal decision of backing 35-year-old Lakra, also in-charge of the party’s women cell, sources said the prospective candidate was intimated about the decision over phone by MP Ravindra Rai in the morning.

Top sources said former chief minister Arjun Munda chose Lakra after a deliberation with state party chief and MP Ravindra Rai. A formal declaration is likely to be made within a couple of days.

Asked whether the BJP would support her as a candidate for the mayoral polls, Lakra, who had started her career from ABVP, the BJP’s student wing, in 2010, said: “I am waiting for an announcement. But I am pretty sure and highly confident about the (party’s) support.”

She collected her nomination form on Monday.

The Congress, on the other hand, declared support for former mayor Khalkho, who was at the centre of a cash-for-vote controversy in last year’s mayoral election that was eventually cancelled.

A meeting chaired by Abha Sinha, the party’s state women’s wing president, took the decision on Monday.

“She (Khalkho) is a deserving tribal woman. Our good wishes and moral support are with her,” Sinha said.

Later speaking to The Telegraph, Khalkho, who filed her nominations on Monday, said: “The Congress has assured to extend moral support to me.”

In the civic elections held on April 8, 2013, the Congress had also backed Khalkho for the mayor’s seat. But a day before the polls, police seized Rs 21.90 lakh from a city hotel, purportedly meant to influence voting in favour of Khalkho, who was eyeing a second term.

But on Monday, Khalkho avoided to comment on last year’s controversy.

“Let us look towards the future now,” she said.

But Gagan Kachchap, her rival and another candidate who also filed nominations on Monday, made it a point to rake up the fast.

Ek ghatna ne sheher se ek saal ke liye mayor cheein liya. Hum chahenge ki iis baar prashashan satark rahe aur chunaw transparency ke saath ho. (Once incident deprived Ranchi of a mayor for over a year. I hope the administration ensures transparency this time,” he added.

Although the civic elections in Jharkhand are not held on party lines, candidates enjoy the support of political parties. Ajsu Party is supporting Varsha Gari, who is expected to file nominations on Tuesday.

Apart from Lakra, two others — Sunil Kujur and Nanku Tirkey — collected nomination forms on Monday.

With this, the total number of candidates who have collected the forms till now stands at 18. Election officer Ravi Shankar Verma said two ballot units would be required during the polls because the number of candidates has exceeded 15.