The Telegraph
Saturday , March 15 , 2014
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Marandi baits Guruji at home

Ranchi, March 14: In a surprise U-turn, JVM chief Babulal Marandi today decided to contest from Dumka, throwing an open challenge to JMM supremo Shibu Soren, sitting MP and nominee for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Marandi, in the news yesterday for publicly expressing fears of his life under threat, had earlier professed unwillingness to contest Lok Sabha elections, wanting to focus on poll management to ensure maximum number of victories for his party.

But, he apparently bowed to his diehard supporters.

“The JVM believes in internal democracy. I can’t go against the wishes of my family (party workers). I have been associated with Dumka since long. The people of Dumka elected me to the Lok Sabha in 1998 and 1999, when I defeated Shibu Soren and his wife Rupi Soren,” Marandi told The Telegraph.

Both times, Marandi was a BJP nominee. In fact, under Marandi’s leadership the saffron party won 12 of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand region of Unified Bihar in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections.

On the other hand, Soren Senior has won Dumka in 1980, 1989, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2004 and 2009.

Dumka voters now have a tough choice between Soren and Marandi, both former chief ministers and two of Jharkhand’s prominent faces in national politics.

Marandi began his political career with the JMM, switched to BJP where he had a long tenure — he became a Union minister and Jharkhand’s first chief minister — and in the mid-2000s, parted ways to form his own party, the JVM.

Dumka, an ST reserved seat, stayed Soren Senior’s turf. But the 2000s saw Marandi switch to Koderma. When the BJP fielded him from Koderma in 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Marandi perhaps became the first tribal leader in Jharkhand to win an unreserved Lok Sabha seat. Even after his BJP stint, Marandi won from Koderma in by-elections and in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

This time, Marandi fielded Pranab Verma in Koderma.

What compelled him to move out of Koderma this time is intriguing.

Political watchers are wondering if Marandi wanted a face-off with the now-ailing Soren in Dumka or faced a threat in Koderma from CPI-ML (Liberation) whose support base is expanding steadily. Another theory doing the rounds is whether the BJP’s decision of fielding Marandi’s one-time trusted aide Ravindra Rai from Koderma had an impact.

The JVM also announced party principal general secretary Pradip Yadav would contest from Godda. Yadav won Godda at a Lok Sabha bypoll in 2002 but was defeated by Furqan Ansari of Congress in 2004 and Nishikant Dube of BJP in 2009. But, he has always won the Poreyahat Vidhan Sabha seat.

With these two announcements, the JVM has become Jharkhand’s first major political party to list names of all its 14 candidates. The party was also the first to come out with its election manifesto.