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Giridih seat sacrifice for ally Ajsu baffles BJP's Jharkhand leaders

No sense in allocating the Giridih seat to Ajsu, which has no voter base there, says BJP leader

By Vijay Deo Jha in Ranchi
  • Published 12.03.19, 12:07 AM
  • Updated 12.03.19, 12:07 AM
  • 3 mins read
(From left) BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra with Giridih MP Ravindra Pandey during a conference in Dhanbad last month. Picture by Gautam Dey

The BJP’s decision to give up its claim to the Giridih Lok Sabha seat in favour of its recalcitrant ally, Ajsu Party, has baffled many within the party, but five-time MP Ravindra Pandey, who has been sacrificed, is the most upset, with his supporters claiming he is already trying to initiate back channel talks with the Congress and the JMM.

“I was removed unceremoniously. I was not even informed. I was not asked. This is one of the most depressing moments in my political career. I am a loyal worker of the party. I don’t know what will be my role in this election. I will wait for the party to assign responsibilities to me,” Pandey said about the decision taken by the BJP central leadership last week.

Pandey refused to comment when asked whether he would contest elections, but sources close to him said he would not give up easily and that he had already got in touch with both, the JMM and the Congress. That Pandey’s father, late Krishna Murari Pandey, was a veteran labour leader of the Congress lent credence to their speculation.

After the death of his father in 1995, Pandey was appointed the Bokaro district Congress president. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, after the Congress denied him a ticket, Pandey crossed over to the BJP, got a ticket and won. Thereafter, he went on to represent the seat five times in the Lok Sabha.

Former state BJP president and Koderma MP Ravindra Rai was critical of the party for dropping Pandey.

“Giridih is a traditional BJP seat. From 1989 to 2014, the BJP has won the seat six times. Pandey represented the seat five times. Ajsu Party is our alliance partner but giving this seat to it is political suicide. This decision will help the Opposition,” Rai told the media at his house in Giridih on Sunday.

But on Monday, Rai was ticked off by state BJP spokesperson Pratul Nath Shahdeo.

“The central party leadership has taken a calculated decision. Ajsu Party is our ally. One should avoid questioning the decision in the larger interest of the party and alliance,” he told the media, indicating it was more important to ensure that Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto, who has been very critical of the Raghubar Das government, did not decide to go it alone.

“Ajsu Party was ready to contest all 14 seats. Now we have restricted it to only one seat. In case the BJP had called off its alliance, it would have hurt us. Don’t forget that each vote Ajsu party earned would have cost the BJP. This election is going to be tough and we can’t afford to waste a single vote,” confided a senior party leader.

BJP party members admitted they were all surprised that Giridih was “sacrificed”, but refused to speak on the record since the decision was taken by the BJP parliamentary board involving senior leaders like party chief Amit Shah.

“We got to know on Friday night. We had no information that negotiations were on. Everything happened suddenly. Giridih is a traditional BJP seat. It is baffling that a five-time MP has been sacrificed,” said another senior BJP leader.

Pandey has been dealing with two immediate rivals within the party, Baghmara MLA Dhullu Mahto and BJP mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh editor Shiv Shakti Bakshi. In July last year, Pandey and Mahto were engaged in a public spat that was a source of embarrassment for the party with one calling the other “womaniser”, “anti-poor” and “corrupt”.

On Monday in Dhanbad, supporters of both Mahto, who has been eyeing the Giridih seat, and Pandey spoke against the party leadership.

“There is no sense in allocating the Giridih seat to Ajsu, which has no voter base in Giridih. Votes earned by Ajsu’s U.C. Mehta in the 2014 elections were less than the votes secured by Baghmara MLA Dhullu Mahto in his Assembly constituency,” BJP Baghmara block president Bachchu Rai told the media.

Pandey’s representative Anil Upadhyay demanded the party leadership reconsider the decision. “Allocating the seat to Ajsu isn’t a wise decision. No one can be a better candidate for the BJP from Giridih other than Ravindra Pandey,” he said.

Additional reporting by Praduman Choubey in Dhanbad