The Telegraph
Saturday , March 15 , 2014
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Munda ‘no’ puts BJP in a bind

Ranchi, March 14: The BJP leadership is in a fix over the prestigious Jamshedpur constituency with the party’s favourite pick for the seat, Arjun Munda, being reluctant to contest Lok Sabha elections.

Insiders revealed this was one of the main reasons why the party high command yesterday released its list of candidates for 13 constituencies in Jharkhand, leaving out only the Jamshedpur seat.

Munda, who won the seat in 2009, is maintaining he wants to devote time to campaign for party candidates.

“I am sticking to my stand (of not contesting general election this time),” Munda told The Telegraph.

Why Munda’s assent is vital to the BJP now is because when he vacated the Jamshedpur seat after becoming Jharkhand chief minister, JVM’s first-timer Ajoy Kumar met with a resounding victory in the 2011 bypoll, beating BJP’s MP hopeful Dineshanand Goswami.

Asked if Munda would revisit the matter if the central leadership directed him to do so, the former chief minister said: “Such questions create confusion. At this moment, for me, creating a conducive atmosphere and building public opinion in favour of party candidates is more important than contesting polls.”

But a section of the central leadership, including national organisational secretary Ramlal, is of the view that Munda is a safe bet against sitting MP and JVM nominee Kumar.

“The BJP won this prestigious seat many times. The party wants to regain it. We are in a favourable position because of NaMo but the candidate and local factors will also matter,” said a party senior.

The BJP won the seat in 1980 (R.P. Sarangi), 1996 (Nitish Bharadwaj), 1998 (Abha Mahto), 1999 (Abha Mahto), and 2009 (Arjun Munda).

Even as the BJP’s election committee is expected to meet in New Delhi tomorrow, as many as three party leaders — former MLA Saryu Rai, former state party chief Dineshanand Goswami and former MP Abha Mahto — are vying for the ticket.

Munda, on the other hand, may propose the name of former IAS Vimal Kirti Singh, who took VRS to join the BJP. But Singh was interested in contesting from Dhanbad. Party leaders are unsure if he would be willing to fight against JVM heavyweight Kumar.

The BJP is aware of Kumar’s popularity and not willing to fielding “anybody” against him and “waste” time and resources.

A section of the BJP is pitching for Jamshedpur (East) MLA Raghubar Das to represent the vaishya community (trader class) — traditional vote bank for the BJP. But, Das turned down the suggestion, dropping enough hints that his interest lay elsewhere.

The JMM, too, is undecided on its Jamshedpur candidate. JMM bosses seem to share the BJP’s dilemma.