The fresh Ranchi Municipal Corporation mayoral election in mid-May seems to be more a battle between Congress heavyweights, Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay and state president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, while it is no surprise that the cornered former Union minister wants to lie low.
Sahay, sidelined by the party’s Delhi brass and fighting factionalism at home, had his image badly dented when police and I-T recovered Rs 21.90 lakh from a Ranchi hotel, allegedly to influence votes for Congress-backed Rama Khalkho.
Close aides maintain a rival faction within his own party has falsely implicated Sahay in the cash scam. “He is now reluctant to campaign or lobby for anyone,” an aide told The Telegraph.
“Even if the Congress backed Khalkho, she was seen as Sahay’s personal nominee. Now, she has been named as main accused in horse-trading, trying to influence the poll and evading arrest. A local court has issued a warrant against her. Sahayji is angry and upset over the way the strong rival lobby within the party tried to implicate him as the chief architect,” he added.
The fresh poll will be a chance for arch-rival Balmuchu to take on Sahay on his home turf, fear his aides.
The Balmuchu camp, hunting for a suitable candidate, has hinted at four tribal names — Tensiya Hembrom, Jagrani Kujur, Shashikant Tirkey and Arjun Oraon.
A meeting of district Congress unit has been called on April 27 to take stock. The central leadership is aware that personal ambitions and warring factions may widen factionalism in the run-up to mayoral elections. It wants the party to form a panel and consult seniors before taking consensus on whom to support.
State Congress in-charge Shakeel Ahmed explicitly said backing a candidate would be “a rigorous process”. “The last time, we supported Khalkho as she was the Ranchi mayor who had joined the party. Now, the consensus candidate must belong to the cadre,” Ahmed told The Telegraph.
The possibility of Khalkho contesting again is remote.
Sahay’s supporters may not accept publicly that the cash scam has reduced his clout.
“The April 27 meeting is our first for the fresh poll. Let the schedule be announced. We will again discuss probable candidates. Yeh sahi hai ki Sahayji iss bar koi interest nahin dikha rahe lekin politics mein aise hadse hote hi rahte hain (It’s true Sahay is not evincing interest this time, but political misadventures keep happening),” Ranchi (urban) Congress president Surendra Singh, Sahay’s aide, said.