The Telegraph
Friday , December 11 , 2009
Since 1st March, 1999
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Caste, corruption to decide equation

Jamshedpur, Dec. 10: If caste holds the key to the Ichagarh fight, stability and a corruption-free government are the main issues in Baharagora.

Both these constituencies are going to polls in the fourth phase on December 12.

The dominant Kurmi (Mahto) votes will once again play an important role in determining who ultimately will win in Ichagarh. On the other hand, the BJP is aspiring to score a hat-trick in Baharagora while the JMM is hoping to gain lost ground.

A total of 27 candidates, including 10 Kurmis, are trying their luck from Ichagarh, but the contest will be among JMM’s sitting MLA Sudhir Mahto, Sadhu Charan Mahto (BJP), Arvind Singh (JVM-P) and Kartik Mahto (Ajsu).

Sudhir, a former deputy chief minister who defeated Singh by about 13,000 votes in the last Assembly elections in 2005, looks to have been badly hit as far as Kurmi vote configuration is concerned. Both Sadhu, a protege of senior BJP leader Arjun Munda, and Kartik have strong influence when it comes to shoring up caste votes. Among nearly 1,90,000 voters, Kurmis amount to over 80,000 in Ichagarh while Mundas are pegged at around 35,000. The Santhals cross the 22,000 figure whereas Muslim voters come to over 13,000. Banias, Lohars, Kalindis and Pramaniks make up the other caste vote bank.

And almost all candidates are harping on the issues of displacement, pollution, rural electrification, roads, irrigation and unemployment. But the issue of displacement due to Subarnarekha Multipurpose Project beats them all.

The battle for Baharagora seat appears to be a bipolar one. The contest will be direct between sitting BJP legislator Dinesh Sarangi and JMM nominee Bidyut Baran Mahto.

Congress candidate Shyamal Ranjan Khan, who is trying to make the contest a triangular one, is a political novice. But he is quite confident. “I am very much in the race and sure of win as I enjoy people’s support,” he said.

At the other end is Sarangi, better known as “Doctor babu”. He is sure of third-time victory. “It will be a hat-trick for me and for the JMM candidate too, the only difference being I will win and he will lose,” he added.

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