The Telegraph
Saturday , May 17 , 2014
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Soren blip in BJP sweep

Ranchi, May 16: Like the rest of India, Jharkhand emphatically placed its belief in Narendra Modi’s promise of economic overhaul and “less government, more governance”, handing the BJP 12 out of 14 seats on a platter, and stunning the Congress with its sheer force of numerical rejection.

Significantly, a state with a large number of minorities — tribal Christians and Muslims — embraced the BJP’s promise of development as enthusiastically as the heartland, leaving no room for “secular” Congress, RJD and regional parties such as the JVM and Ajsu.

Only JMM’s tallest leader Shibu Soren somewhat controversially managed to hold on to his Dumka bastion by a 39,030-vote margin, the results of his win being immediately challenged by the BJP, while his son Hemant’s gamble of poaching Youth Congress leader Vijay Hansdah paid off in Rajmahal.

Soren and Hansdah defeated respective BJP candidates Sunil Soren and Hemlal Murmu after a series of flip-flops during counting.

But in all the other 12 seats — Ranchi, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur, Godda, Khunti, Giridih, Lohardaga, Palamau, Singhbhum, Koderma and Chatra — it was BJP all the way.

Modi, who addressed eight rallies in Jharkhand, two even on a Maoist bandh day, had dubbed the UPA and Congress as being mired in its own chaos. Voters, it seemed, endorsed the view.

Whether it was a “rank outsider” like former policeman V.D. Ram (Palamau), JMM turncoat Bidyut Baran Mahto (Jamshedpur), relegated-to-sidelines Ramtahal Choudhary (Ranchi) or emerging dynast Jayant Sinha (Hazaribagh), if they contested from the BJP, they all won, and by huge margins.

The Congress, which fielded nine candidates, lost all. The most prominent Congress loser was Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay, who had won both in 2004 and 2009.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who hoped to open his party’s account in Palamau, was left disappointed. Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee, likewise, could not open her Jharkhand tally despite fielding 10 nominees.

The electorate — voting was a high 66 per cent — was no less cruel to JVM chief and the state’s first chief minister Babulal Marandi. Not only did he lose in Dumka, trailing behind BJP’s Sunil Soren, his handpicked favourites — in Jamshedpur, sitting MP Ajoy Kumar, and in Ranchi, Jharkhand State Cricket Association chief Amitabh Choudhary — were routed.

Upset over Dumka result after Soren defeated BJP’s Sunil Soren; BJP senior Arjun Munda complained to Election Commission in Ranchi in the evening. He alleged district administration was hand-in-glove with the JMM and demanded a recount, leading to a sit-in by the party nominee in Dumka.

The definitive verdict in Jharkhand will have a bearing on Assembly elections later this year. “It’s huge, very huge,” said former chief minister Arjun Munda, who did not contest Lok Sabha polls to put his political experience to use in backroom strategies for the party. “People have given overwhelmed support to the BJP and Modiji. This result will have a definite bearing on the state politics.”

The results, he said, were a referendum against the Hemant Soren-led JMM-Congress-RJD government in Jharkhand. “The government will collapse under its own burden,” Munda added.

“Shocking,” JVM general secretary Praveen Singh said. “The Modi factor was one of the reasons behind the defeat of the JVM. But, in Dumka, the entire government machinery was involved in defeating Babulal Marandi. Even our best performer MP Ajoy Kumar was defeated in Jamshedpur. The BJP and Modi have nicely fooled people into a false dream,” he said.

Congressman Sahay sounded vitriolic. “I accept defeat. It was Modi’s black magic at work. The man created communal hatred,” he said.

In contrast, victorious BJP MPs said people were hungry for change.

“We owe our victory to Modiji and his mass appeal. Modiji as a catalyst surcharged entire party. Results are on expected lines. Voting percentage in Jharkhand increased substantially and went to the BJP,” Sunil Singh, winner from Chatra, told The Telegraph.

But the BJP’s losses in Dumka and Rajmahal, despite the Modi wave and Munda getting in JMM stalwart Hemlal Murmu to the lotus party, proves that Santhal Pargana has resisted the national trend.