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Exit of warhorses rattles Congress

On Wednesday, Ahmed joined the JMM and announced his decision to contest from Gandey on a JMM ticket

By Vijay Deo Jha in Ranchi
  • Published 29.11.19, 1:25 AM
  • Updated 29.11.19, 3:42 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel (centre) campaigns for the Congress in Ranchi on Thursday. (Prashant Mitra)

A raft of resignations by senior leaders has unnerved the state Congress ahead of the Assembly elections.

The latest to desert the party is former Gandey MLA Sarfaraz Ahmed.

On Wednesday, Ahmed joined the JMM and announced his decision to contest from Gandey on a JMM ticket.

“This is a major loss for the party ahead of the election. Defections are quite normal during the election, but the question is whether we are strong enough in Jharkhand to afford such departures? A handful of people are managing the election from the comforts of hotel rooms in Ranchi. They are completely disconnected from the party workers,” a senior Congress leader said.

The exodus had started with state party president Ajoy Kumar joining the Aam Aadmi Party in August.

Former Congress state president and Lohardaga MLA Sukhdeo Bhagat too quit the party and joined the BJP.

In another major blow to the party, former Jharkhand Congress president and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu joined the Ajsu Party. Last month, Arun Oraon, who was the chief architect of Congress’s victory in Chhattisgarh Assembly elections and had served as the party’s national general secretary, joined the BJP.

“One by one, our warhorses are switching their loyalty. Our MLA from Barhi, Manoj Yadav, was a prominent OBC face of Congress. For many months, speculation was rife that the BJP was trying to poach him. Our old-timers D.P. Jamudar and Chitrasen Sinku, too, left the party. The members of the district committees in Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Chatra, Gumla and Chaibasa have submitted mass resignations,” a Congress leader said.

Congress is contesting 31 out of the 81 seats as part of the pre-poll tie-up with the JMM and RJD. The JMM is heading the Opposition alliance in Jharkhand and the party’s working president Hemant Soren has been projected as the chief ministerial candidate.

“Gandey was the traditional seat of the Congress that I won on a number of occasions. After the seat was given to the JMM, I requested the JMM leadership to field me as a candidate. As the Congress, JMM and RJD are part of an alliance, it hardly matters from which party I am contesting,” said Ahmed.

However, a senior spokesperson for Congress expressed displeasure over JMM’s electoral game plan.

“Ahmed and Balmuchu resigned from the party because of the JMM. Gandey and Ghatshila were our traditional seats but we gave them to JMM. We made a sacrifice to keep the alliance floating and to make Hemant Soren happy. This is nothing but poaching.”