The Telegraph
Monday , August 4 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Jharkhand’s Modi with matching ‘M’

A BJP poster that projects Arjun Munda as the CM candidate. Telegraph picture

Ranchi, Aug. 3: If Jharkhand BJP’s Assembly poll call of Mission 42+ is a throwback to the party’s Lok Sabha campaign of Mission 272+, slogans surrounding three-time chief minister Arjun Munda are also copycats of abki baar Modi sarkar, although the high command has not officially named a face.

But in case anyone — voters and party colleagues alike — misses the point, Munda’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are busy with a PR exercise on cyberspace, projecting him as a frontrunner in the race to the CM’s chair.

On July 10, Munda’s Facebook account cover picture featured him in talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On July 19, there came his picture with Modi, BJP national president Amit Shah and state president Ravindra Rai, a banner reading abki baar Arjun Mundaji ki sarkar; Mission42+ purn bahumat, sampurn vikas”.

On July 31, yet another of his picture with Modi, both waving hands, came on Facebook.

On Twitter, too, Munda’s smiling pictures with captions such as “ek surakshit bhavishya banana hai, Jharkhand mein kamal khilana hai” are all over the place.

Facebook or Twitter, it seems Munda wants to project he is Jharkhand’s Modi and the obvious choice for the chief minister’s chair.

But ask him, and Munda ducks for cover. “Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe those who handle my account have uploaded something. I will take a look,” he told The Telegraph.

Social networking apart, Munda’s opinions on almost everything get him his daily quota of media publicity, be it on the Hemant Soren government, the ongoing controversy on the “ad hoc” chief secretary or the Chanho block unrest.

But unlike Modi, projected as the undoubted face of the BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign, its central leadership is closely guarded about whether Munda is BJP’s chief ministerial candidate.

That may explain his reticence. But, Munda can perhaps take consolation from the fact that the high command is equally mum on former Union minister Yashwant Sinha.

Unofficially, in some sections of the BJP, there are murmurs that Munda, despite getting a shot at being chief minister thrice, failed to make much impact in the state or impress the central leadership.

On Sinha, they say the former external affairs minister isn’t widely accepted within party ranks. To avoid factionalism, the BJP may field a fresh face this time.

Asked, party workers chose discretion over valour.

“Party workers at ground level will accept whoever the high command officially projects as CM,” Ashok Kumar Baraik, ward No. 28 councillor and an active district level BJP karyakarta, said.

Is there a clear favourite among karyakartas? “When many names do the rounds in BJP, this means the party has many leadership options to offer, unlike other parties who either don’t have any face or are centred around a single person. Given the fact that there’s a Modi wave, many from other parties are making a beeline to join us,” Baraik said.

A party worker in Jamshedpur said he was batting for Munda but they were also open to “better”options.

“Being a three-time CM, Mundaji is experienced but the efficiency of his governance is debatable. Other potential names exist,” he said.

He did not name East Jamshedpur MLA Raghubar Das, but it is clear that the party veteran is seen as a “better option” by many.

Das, perceived to have nursed the CM dream for years, also played it safe when asked for comments. He agreed to having seen Munda’s Mission 42+ pictures. “Let the party decide,” he said when asked about BJP’s CM candidate.

“When people vote for the BJP, they vote for the party, ideology and issues. BJP is not a personality-based party,” he stressed.

But with Munda’s publicity machine on an overdrive, won’t he be seen as a clear favourite? “Rahne dijiye, mere muh se kuch mat bulwaiye. (Leave it, don’t make me speak on this issue.) All I want to say is that we have many options and party will take a rational decision,” Das said.