Workers prepare laddoos at the BJP headquarters in Ranchi on Thursday, the eve of the Lok Sabha verdict, which party leaders hope to relish. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Friday will either put BJP candidate Ramtahal Choudhary back in the political ring powered by the Modi wave or banish him into oblivion.
Boasting an uninterrupted victory run in the 1990s, Choudhary who got back-to-back defeats in 2004 and 2009 by Congressman Subodh Kant Sahay, is confident of avenging himself on Friday.
A long-time aide said the change in Choudhary is visible. “He’s confident of compensating his previous humiliations with a huge victory margin. It is a huge leap of faith. He wasn’t so confident last time.”
Choudhary, who lost to Sahay in 2009 by only 13,300 votes, said he had no doubts this time. “I will win by a huge margin. In 2009, I was the victim of a conspiracy. Officially Ichagarh Assembly segment (under Ranchi Lok Sabha seat) reported 38 per cent polls, but after two days, the returning officer gave a fresh figure of 58 per cent to help the Congress. During counting, power snapped for an hour to ease rigging,” he claimed.
Does he suspect a rerun? “Agar iss baar aisa kiya to kand ho jayega, maar ho jayega (If it happens this time, it will become a scam and we will hit back),” he warns. After the April 17 poll day for Ranchi, Choudhary shot three missives to Election Commission (EC), asking them to ensure votes weren’t tampered with.
“Ensure round-the-clock power supply,” he now intones. “Provide minute details to polling agents and make trends public after every round. Allow our men authorised by EC to keep tabs.”
For the BJP, Ranchi is a prestige seat as it is anxious to wrest from the Congress what was once its traditional bastion.
For the past one week, the BJP has been conducting gruelling sessions for party workers slotted at Pandra Bazar Samiti in Ranchi, Friday’s all-important counting venue.
Choudhary’s rivals seem more relaxed. Choudhary’s main rival and sitting MP Sahay arrived from Delhi on Thursday evening. Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto, another contestant, is back in the capital after a family vacation. JVM’s nominee Amitabh Choudhary, also JSCA president, is busy arranging IPL matches in Ranchi.
All candidates, their nominated counting agents and supporters will be present at the counting venue on Friday.
Polling agents nominated by each political party with EC passes will reach the Pandra venue by 6am. So will party candidates and supporters, but camp in tents at least 100 metres away. Every party also has planned a control room with senior members monitoring events at the counting venue.
Former chief minister Arjun Munda, in charge of the BJP control room at the party’s Harmu office, said he postponed his Delhi trip on Friday to be where the action is.
“You have to be very alert during counting,” Munda said at his Circular Road residence on Thursday, perhaps echoing Choudhary’s fears of rigging.
Regional heavyweights, former chief ministers and chiefs of their respective parties Babulal Marandi of JVM and Shibu Soren of JMM, pitted against each other in Dumka, are in the state’s second capital, relegating Ranchi in charge of others. Chief minister and loyal son Hemant Soren is also in Dumka. Win or lose, an ailing Shibu will need his son to hold his hand.
“Counting of six Ranchi Assembly segments will be held in 16-17 rounds and trends will emerge from 10am,” said Ranchi DC-cum-returning officer Vinay Kumar Choubey. The district administration will deploy 300 jawans at Pandra counting centre.