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Bypoll catch-22 for BJP

Ranchi, Nov. 11: The Mandu by-election has placed the state BJP unit between the devil and the deep sea over whether to field a candidate or take a side of one of its allies.

The party has not yet revealed whether it would contest the bypoll, even as the nomination process closes tomorrow.

If it decides against contesting, BJP is faced with the unsavoury prospect of lending support to either traditional ally JD(U) or the mighty JMM, whose support is essential for running the coalition government in Jharkhand.

JMM nominee Jaiprakash Bhai Patel today filed his candidature. However, despite JMM supremo Shibu Soren’s appeal for support, none of the allies turned up to throw their weight behind Patel.

JMM central committee member Supriya Bhattacharya said the ball was now in BJP’s court and that the latter should persuade “younger brother” JD(U) to support Patel.

“We had supported Arjun Munda in Kharsawan. Friendly fights during the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha bypoll had proved a costly affair for the ruling partners. Further, Mandu is our sitting constituency. If they don’t understand now, it may have far-reaching consequences later,” he added.

JD(U) state president Kheeru Mahto will be filing his nomination tomorrow. Though the BJP is yet to reveal its strategy, Mahto claimed BJP leader and Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha had promised him full support.

“I have been in regular touch with him (Sinha). He has promised to come tomorrow. I am sure several other BJP leaders will also actively campaign for me. Our party has a long-term relationship with the BJP. In fact, BJP and JD(U) are permanent partners,” Mahto told The Telegraph over phone.

The BJP leadership remained evasive, arguing that it wouldn’t be wise to comment on the bypoll at this moment.

“We have already submitted a report to the party high command, vividly describing the political scenario in Jharkhand. We have even submitted a list of potential candidates for the Mandu seat to help the party brass take a conscious decision. The party is likely to make an announcement very soon,” BJP state president Dineshanand Goswami said.

According to BJP sources, BJP national president Nitin Gadkari was not averse to supporting the JMM in Mandu, but he was not prepared to directly talk to the JD(U) on the issue. “If the JMM strikes a deal with JD(U) on its own, Gadkari wouldn’t mind playing the role of a facilitator,” a party insider said.

The by-election is also likely to be an acid test for Arjun Munda if the BJP decides to contest, with the JVM raising the ante in its allegations of corruption in road projects.

A senior BJP leader is also said to have threatened to bring out a tell-all booklet on mining leases recommended during the chief minister's earlier tenure.

The JVM has repeatedly alleged that the government was spending surplus money on the construction of 15.5km Adityapur-Kandra road (Rs 687 crore), 61km Kandra-Chaibasa road (Rs 433 crore) and a 30km ring road (Rs 620 crore) in Ranchi.

However, Munda remained unperturbed. “I am ready to prove in black and white that there has been no irregularities either in the road projects or mining lease deals in my tenures,” he said.

“If a BJP member’s booklet, which is said to have been drafted by a bureaucrat, sparks controversies, it should be looked into by the party high command. I will prefer stepping down to succumbing to pressure,” he added.

Meanwhile, altogether 10 candidates filed their nomination for the by-election today at the office of the sub-divisional magistrate-cum-returning officer Binay Kumar Rai. The number of nominees have gone up to 11 so far.

Among those in the fray are Manish Jaiswal of JVM, Kumar Mahesh Singh (Congress), Chandra Nath Bhai Patel (CPI-ML) and RJD’s Bhuvaneshwar Patel.

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