The Telegraph
Saturday , May 17 , 2014
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Stunned Cong groping for answers

Jharkhand never held out hope for the Congress but things never looked so bad.

The Congress lost all the nine seats it contested in alliance with the JMM and RJD. But, the most humiliating was the loss of the party’s lone MP, Subodh Kant Sahay, from Ranchi where the BJP’s Ramtahal Choudhary romped home with a lead of over 1.99 lakh votes.

State Congress headquarters at Shradhanand Road wore a forlorn look, with leaders desperately searching for explanations of a drubbing they cannot afford to talk about in public.

State Congress chief Sukhdeo Bhagat, appointed last year to streamline the party organisation, tried to put up a brave front.

“We gave tough fights to the BJP everywhere. But we were mandated to sit in the Opposition. Probably, we failed to place before the people all the revolutionary measures taken by the UPA government at the Centre,” he said, but vowed a comeback.

“It is not the end of the road,” he said.

Star campaigners from the Congress, party president Sonia Gandhi, son Rahul, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, state party in-charge B.K Hariprasad and others had done duty in Jharkhand, holding rallies for all their candidates, nine in all.

But their best was no match for the BJP’s Narendra Modi.

He addressed as many as eight rallies across the state spread over four days.

The Congress failed to connect with the Jharkhand voter both conceptually and substantively. Its leaders could not provide a good enough reason for the electorate to ditch Modi and pick Rahul as the future leader of the country.

Even Union minister Jairam Ramesh, who travelled in Jharkhand extensively, especially in the Saranda region to ensure proper implementation of an ambitious development plan in the former Maoist stronghold of West Singhbhum, was ineffective in his campaign in the face of the BJP juggernaut.

Ramesh was the architect of the JMM-Congress alliance, propping up Hemant Soren as chief minister after the JMM leader ditched Arjun Munda _ all this with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections

The result was that the Congress ended up facing anti-incumbency sentiments on two counts.

One, the policy paralysis of the UPA at the Centre leading to a raft of corruption charges. And two, an idle and ineffective coalition government in the state.

Hence, the carefully planned strategy of the Congress high command to somehow rope in the JMM and the RJD into an electoral alliance in Jharkhand under the UPA umbrella to prevent a BJP surge failed miserably.

The Congress has not won a single seat. Now, it has to give up the lone Ranchi seat which Subodh Kant had won in 2009 by a narrow margin of 13,300 votes.

Today, Sahay suffered the worst defeat of his career, by a margin of around 1.9 lakh votes. Ajay Dubey from Dhanbad and Furkan Ansari from Godda lost, too.

The trend continued in other constituencies as well. Ultimately one by one, all Congress candidates fell like nine pins: Dhiraj Prasad Sahu in Chatra, Saurabh Narayan Singh in Hazaribagh, Kalicharan Munda in Khunti, Chitrasen Sinku in Singhbhum, Rameshwar Oraon in Lohardaga.

Obviously upset with poor and humiliating results, a senior Congress said: “Koi jameen ka neta ho tab to koi baat karen. Sab ke sab apne fayde dekhte hain aise me yah sab to hona hi tha. (Had there been some truly grassroots leader, then they would have spoken up. Everyone was looking out for his own individual gains. This had to happen).”

He admitted that forming a state government was a blunder and that somebody would have to take responsibility.

“If we contested alone we would have been in a better position. We are paying the price for poor choice of candidates,” he added.

Congress loyalists tried to counter the criticism by citing the BJP’s spectacular performance across the country, adding it was unfair to single out Jharkhand.

“Jharkhand is not the only state where the party has suffered. It is wrong to blame Soniaji and Rahulji and for that matter our state leadership,” Shailesh Sinha, a senior Congress leader, said.

But the blame game has already begun. Former state party president and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Balmuchu has sought an immediate review of the results to fix responsibility for the defeat, making it clear who he was directing his ire at.

Sukhdeo Bhagat will have a lot of explaining to do.

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