Visiting Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and others at the Chintan Shivir at a Ranchi hotel, while partymen burn his effigy outside the venue on Tuesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Ranchi, June 17: In a throwback to mindless politics of yore, former Union minister Jairam Ramesh was today greeted with black flags, an effigy and derogatory slogans when he came for the Congress Chintan Shivir at a capital hotel to assess the party’s Lok Sabha poll rout and discuss the roadmap for Assembly elections.
Though it is not clear who orchestrated the shenanigans at Hotel Chanakya BNR, mischief-mongers tried to make Ramesh, the UPA-II cabinet member who shot to fame in Jharkhand for his efforts in Saranda, the scapegoat for the party’s failure to send a single MP from the state to Parliament.
Though complaints against him included elitism, lack of charisma and failure to revive the party, how Ramesh could be held responsible for Lok Sabha elections that he did not even contest from Jharkhand, remained a mystery.
Around 10.30am, nearly 80 leaders, including MLAs, MP and office-bearers, assembled to analyse the causes for the defeat and mull if the party should go alone in the Vidhan Sabha elections and if so, what the criteria for MLA aspirants should be.
Barely 30 minutes into the meeting, a dozen Ranchi Congress workers and some unknown persons, all brandishing black flags, barged into the hotel, called Ramesh a “burden” on the state and banged the door of the hall.
As Congress Seva Dal members overpowered protesters, Pradesh Congress chief Sukhdeo Bhagat and state cabinet minister Rajendra Prasad Singh rushed out to prevent a brawl.
Outside the hotel, protesters splashed black paint on Ramesh’s picture. Around 12.35pm, Ranchi Congress leaders and workers, including Kishoreganj block vice-president Ashutoshnath Pathak and Ranchi Congress vice-president Bindeshwari Singh Yadav, burnt an effigy of Ramesh as policemen watched the show.
Though no leader took responsibility of the protest, many pointed a finger at former Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay and others called it a move to “remove” Bhagat.
Sahay, attending the meeting, refused to comment. Former state Congress president and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu condemned the protest but criticised the luxury venue of Chintan Shivir.
A baffled Ramesh, who is understood to have said he was “extremely sorry if someone got hurt because of me”, asked around for the reasons behind the protest.Party leaders told him workers were unhappy as he kept his distance.
“Party workers want senior leaders (like Ramesh) to spare time for them and incorporate their views in policy and political decisions,” a source said.
Others said he was a “good man” but lacked charisma.
Ramesh declined to react in front of the media. Later, he told The Telegraph: “I am not hurt. This is natural.” He added he would continue to play a major role in the state.
“The BJP won Lok Sabha polls on the basis of communal polarisation. In Assembly elections, we will give a befitting reply. We won’t allow Chotanagpur to become Nagpur,” he said.
Hariprasad promised disciplinary action against protesters.
Bhagat said they would remove inactive office bearers and start a statewide padyatra seeking a handful of grain, one rupee and one vote from everyone.