The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 2 , 2014
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Hemant’s poll duty for dad

- 2 Santhal Pargana seats key to relevance

Ranchi, April 1: It’s mission Santhal Pargana for chief minister and dutiful son Hemant Soren.

Today, Hemant went to Dumka, and Rajmahal areas Littipara and Pakur, holding rallies and meeting party workers. He was in Dumka yesterday too. On March 29, he toured Barharwa, in Sahebganj district under Rajmahal seat, Godda, Dumka and Giridih.

This has been Hemant’s routine this past fortnight and will intensify. But touring Santhal Pargana — the so-called JMM bastion where the party won 10 of 18 seats in the last Assembly elections — is no cakewalk now. The region, with three Lok Sabha seats Dumka, Rajmahal and Godda, is turbulence personified for the state’s biggest regional party.

In Dumka, the JMM fielded party boss Shibu Soren, sitting Dumka MP. But Hemant and his ailing and elderly father know they can’t afford to treat Dumka like a family pocket-borough as JVM boss and former chief minister Babulal Marandi — who beat Soren Senior and his wife Rupi in Lok Sabha elections of the late 1990s — is in the fray.

Big battle of former chief ministers in the ST reserved seat apart, disgruntled Congressman Stephen Marandi, who resigned from his party today to protest the Congress-JMM-RJD seat-sharing pact, will join the Babulal Marandi camp on April 3. The BJP’s Sunil Soren is also a potentially strong Dumka candidate.

In Rajmahal, the JMM is in a peculiar position. Long-time Soren loyalist Hemlal Murmu and MLA from Barhait, an Assembly seat under Rajmahal Lok Sabha seat, resigned from the JMM to join BJP when denied a ticket. Murmu is contesting Rajmahal as a BJP man.

The JMM’s own candidate, Vijay Hansdah, is a Hemant favourite, a decision that cost the Sorens dear.

Murmu’s resignation apart, when popular Youth Congress leader Vijay joined the JMM, state government ally Congress condemned it as “opportunism” and “Hemant’s poaching tactics”. Vijay’s father, late MP Thomas Hansdah, was one of the few towering Congressmen in the area.

Vijay’s ticket also angered JMM veteran Simon Marandi, who had eyed Rajmahal for his son Dinesh William. Though Simon, party’s MLA of Littipara, under Rajmahal seat, hasn’t severed ties with JMM, he is distant.

Effectively, the JMM, contesting four seats in Jharkhand — Dumka, Rajmahal, Giridih and Jamshedpur — is getting little or no support from many allies in the first two.

Though the JMM has many Santhal Pargana MLAs, including Hemant, Assembly Speaker S.S. Bhokta, Simon Marandi, Aquil Akhtar, Lobin Hembrom, Nalin Soren, Sita Soren, Bishnu Prasad Bhaiya and Haji Hussain Ansari, winning two Lok Sabha seats of Dumka and Rajmahal is crucial to its political relevance.

“Our focus is Santhal Pargana, but Shibuji, the CM and others will campaign in Giridih and Jamshedpur, too” Vinod Pandey, JMM’s core committee secretary, said.

Jharkhand apart, the JMM is fielding a candidate each in Odisha and Assam, four in Bihar, six in Bengal. It has also given tickets to party workers for 10 Tamil Nadu seats.