The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Marandi sees poll mandate in victory

Koderma, Nov. 9: “A mandate for a mid-term poll” is how Babulal Marandi today described his stunning victory in the Koderma Lok Sabha byelection.

All but one of his opponents forfeited their security deposit as Marandi, who fought as an Independent on a lock-and-key symbol, emerged victorious, defeating UPA candidate Manoj Yadav by 1.94 lakh votes.

Wresting the seat that he had vacated in May after he quit the BJP, Marandi sounded a warning to the UPA. “If they delay mid-term polls in the state, they will be in for more shocks,” he said.

Celebrations reported from all corners of the state set off the alarm in the BJP and the JMM. Former chief minister Arjun Munda put on a brave face and said the BJP had learnt to take both victory and defeat in its stride.

Coal minister and chairman of the UPA steering committee in the state, Shibu Soren, conceded defeat and said the result showed that Marandi is in touch with the people while others are not.

A glum Soren, however, justified the decision to put up a candidate against Marandi. “He is not such a big leader that the UPA should have left the seat for him,” he said.

But reports of people in Dumka, his bastion, celebrating would have rattled Soren, even if the result did not.

Marandi’s victory is even more creditable because though a Santhal tribesman, he won the general seat for the second time in succession, and improved on his margin.

Marandi, in fact, polled almost as many votes as the next three candidates put together. The BJP and the Congress candidates together polled 2.47 lakh votes, over 75,000 votes less than Marandi.

A beaming Marandi, who had predicted the victory as well as the record margin, said the result showed that voters endorsed his position that both NDA and UPA had neglected Jharkhand. Calling the present government a joke on Jharkhand, he called for fresh polls to end the stalemate.

Asked if the victory would prompt an exodus from other parties, Marandi said he did not care “in how many pieces they get split”. But he would personally screen politicians, he vowed, before accepting them in his yet-to-be-registered political outfit.

The 47-year-old leader campaigned single-handedly and the result shows that he led in all the six Assembly segments, including in Bagodar, where he polled more votes than the CPI (ML) candidate. The result also vindicated his claim that his acceptability cuts across caste and community.

Though the constituency, bordering two Bihar districts of Nawada and Gaya, has a large population of Yadavs, Koeris and Muslims, who are deemed to be “natural” allies of the RJD and Congress, voters chose to repose faith in Marandi.

It is also a crushing indictment of both the BJP and Congress campaigns, which claimed that Jharkhand is not safe in the hands of a regional political outfit.

A Marandi supporter put the victory in perspective by pointing out that he was pitted against two former chief ministers and the present chief minister. That Munda, Soren and Madhu Koda together failed to stop Marandi from winning, he concluded, is a turning point in state politics.

Marandi has won the semi-final and is now ready for the final.

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