Ajsu teaches Cong a lesson - Jaiswal emerges Hatia winner, BJP misses Munda touch

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By SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA & SANTOSH K. KIRO
  • Published 16.06.12
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Ranchi, June 15: Ajsu’s Navin Jaiswal pulled off a stunning victory in the fiercely contested Hatia by-election, forcing big brother BJP and the Opposition Congress to eat humble pie and underscoring the importance of regional aspirations in a politically fragmented state like Jharkhand.

Jaiswal wrested the seat from the Congress by securing 41,566 votes in an election in which only 1,51,991 out of the 4.02 lakh electorate turned up to choose an MLA for the Hatia Assembly seat, which went unrepresented since June, 2010, after the death of incumbent Gopal Sharan Nath Shahdeo.

The Ajsu victory relegated the Congress to fourth position, dealing a heavy blow to Union minister and Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay, who fielded his brother Sunil in the fray against the wishes of estranged ally, the Babulal Marandi- led JVM.

JVM’s Ajay Nath Shahdeo ended up runners-up, bagging 29,682 votes, while the BJP’s Ramji Lal Sarda came in a poor third with 26,151 votes. Congress’s Sunil polled 21,578 votes and lost his deposit.

Led by its chief and deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto, the Ajsu victory — by a margin of 11,884 — also broke a 35-year old Hatia tradition of returning either a BJP or a Congress candidate.

But Subodh Kant Sahay turned out to be the biggest loser, more so because Hatia happens to be a part of his Lok Sabha constituency. Also, it was he who had convinced the Congress high command to not accede to Marandi’s demand of allowing the JVM to contest the seat in exchange for support in the Rajya Sabha elections.

The BJP made no effort to hide its surprise at the Ajsu victory. “It is unprecedented. We did sense defeat after the poor turnout in the urban pockets, but never did we expect to perform so badly,” said state party president Dineshanand Goswami.

He attributed Sarda’s defeat to two factors. “First, the low turnout. Second, the BJP’s campaign was against the Congress on the issue of price rise, corruption, etc and spared the Ajsu on account of it being an ally. The JVM which was stridently against Mahto got the anti-Ajsu votes,” he pointed out.

A senior BJP leader, however, blamed the candidate, too. He said Sarda had been out of touch with his voters for the last seven years, ever since he lost in 2005.

“He busied himself with court visits to fight a case against the Late Shahdeo who won by a margin of only 25 votes in 2009,” the BJP leader pointed out.

Sarda accepted defeat, but said things would have been better if chief minister Arjun Munda, nursing injuries suffered in a helicopter crash, was able to campaign for him.

The JVM, on the other hand, was pleased to have been able to marginalise both the Congress and the BJP even though its own candidate lost.

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“I accept my defeat. I have congratulated Navin Jaiswal for his victory,” said Ajay Shahdeo. “I had worked hard among the people but the poor turnout of urban voters — only 20 per cent — was the real cause behind my defeat. However, I will continue to work for the good of the people of Hatia.”

Mahto attributed his party’s victory — during counting it maintained a lead from the very first round to the last — to its involvement with the people of Hatia through various development projects.

“Jaiswal was in contact with the people of Hatia even after he was defeated in 2009 and got various roads constructed under rural schemes. Also, we had set up around 700 self help groups and linked them with various livelihood programmes,” he added.

Jaiswal credited everyone in the party for today’s win. “I had also worked hard for the good of the people of Hatia constituency and the poll outcome is a reward for me. I will continue to work for the people as their representative,” he said.

Mahto said the Hatia win would not effect the Ajsu’s ties with the BJP and would not impede the functioning of the alliance government in any way as the JVM had snatched the seat from the Opposition. “In fact, the ruling coalition has improved its numbers in the Assembly,” he said.

Sahay and his Union minister brother were incommunicado, leaving state Congress chief Pradeep Balmuchu to defend the party. “The Hatia mandate is unexpected. We will study the reasons behind this defeat,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

A senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity, however, blamed Sahay’s campaign style for the dismal performance. He said the senior leader did not involve the local party organisation in electioneering and put up his own men.

“Even the party’s Jharkhand in-charge, Shakeel Ahmed, returned to Delhi ahead of schedule, apparently telling partymen that his presence was not required in the Hatia byelection,” he added.