Hand in hand, leap to lotus

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  • Published 3.11.14

Ranchi, Nov. 2: Congress sitting MLA Anant Pratap Deo, who got the election symbol of the hand at 1.30pm today and hopped to the lotus at 2.30pm, perhaps set a new world record for quick defection.

By late evening, Deo had received a BJP ticket for Bhavnathpur, of which he was the sitting MLA from the Congress.

Last evening, the central Congress released a list of 14 candidates in which Deo’s candidature was declared for Bhavnathpur, a seat he had won in 2009 as a Congressman. Today, he joined the BJP camp after welcoming state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat and taking from him the party’s election symbol.

Bhagat, whom Deo garlanded at Birsa Munda Airport this morning, first dismissed the news of the MLA’s defection to the BJP as “total nonsense”. Then, as reports of Deo’s political somersault gained credence in the media, a flabbergasted Bhagat said: “God bless him but he will end up as the most untrustworthy politician.”

That Deo managed to surprise even a seasoned politician like Bhagat was evident. “I gave him papers of the party’s election symbol. We were together for around 10 minutes. I could not smell he had planned a switchover,” Bhagat said.

Deo, who went to the BJP office around 2.30pm to complete the formalities of joining the party in presence of state spokesperson Prem Mittal and others, said he switched sides after a sudden “ehsaas (realisation).”

“I suddenly realised that the country and Jharkhand can develop under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There was no trickery. Displacement, migration and poverty are the biggest problems of my constituency. I’ve been raising these issues. I did not join the BJP with aspirations for a ticket.”

Reacting to this, a senior in the Congress camp only said: “When he had the Congress ticket for Bhavnathpur, how could he join the BJP without assurance of candidature from there?”

Now, the Congress is groping for Deo’s replacement. “Galti hua. Chhote Raja (Deo is known by this name in his constituency due to his royal lineage) itna tez niklenge pata nahi tha (Our mistake. We didn’t know Deo could be so sharp/could defect so swiftly),” a senior Congress leader said.

Deo’s defection comes close on the heels of the party’s Gomia MLA Madhav Lal Singh switching sides to the BJP recently. It is widely held that Madhav Lal, who decades ago was with the BJP, had thrice represented Gomia it was not because of Congress but his personal charisma and integrity. The Congress is still scouting for his replacement in Gomia.

Adding to the Congress woes is party’s sitting Hazaribagh MLA Saurabh Narayan Singh. Another royal scion, the sitting MLA who lost Lok Sabha polls to BJP’s Jayant Sinha this time, is reluctant about being in the Assembly fray from the Congress camp as he allegedly fears defeat.

Singh, who has twice represented the Hazaribagh seat, and is considered a safe bet by the Congress, is rumoured to be in touch with the BJP.

“Some two months ago, Singh told our state president that he might not contest elections this time as he fears defeat. We are making all efforts to persuade him but the doubts continue,” a senior Congress leader said.

In Hatia and Khijri, the Congress has fresh worries to contend with. In Hatia, former Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay is said to be willing to field somebody from the minority community, who however must be his close confidant. But, some members want former deputy mayor Ajay Nath Shahdeo to be fielded from the seat. In Khijri, sitting Congress MLA Sawna Lakra is serving life in a murder case. The party is mulling Ranchi Zilla Parishad chief Sundari Tirkey as replacement.