Godda icing on Gujarat victory cake

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By ASHISH SINHA in Ranchi
  • Published 15.12.02
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Ranchi, Dec. 15: A party which had forgotten how to celebrate today hastily hired an electrician to deck up its state headquarters with a series of mini-bulbs. By evening, the BJP’s office at Harmu was glittering — celebrating the roll of its juggernaut from Gujarat to Godda.

The convincing win of Pradeep Yadav in the byelection and good news from distant Rajasthan — where the party wrested three seats from the Congress —came as a bonanza. The party, however, was confused deciding which was a bigger reason to celebrate — Godda or Gujarat.

Party secretary Hridaynath Singh put matters in perspective. “Godda was our traditional seat and today’s was our sixth win from there. We were anyway expecting it. I had put a margin of one lakh votes. I was close because we romped home with a margin of 93,000-plus. The good news from Gujarat is a triumph of nationalist forces,” said a beaming Singh, who had been sent to Jharkhand by the party leadership to lift the BJP’s sagging morale.

The BJP leader said it was wrong to compare the victory in Godda with the defeat in Dumka.

“Of the six Assembly segments in Godda, the BJP held three. That was not the case in Dumka, where we were pitted against JMM president Sibu Soren, a mass leader,” he added.

For the also-ran in Godda — Congress’ Furkan Ansari, Hussain Ansari of the JMM, RJD’s Sanjay Yadav and Jharkhand Vikas Dal leader Suraj Mandal — the defeat has come as a big jolt, but brought into focus the acute lack of unity among the Opposition parties.

The psephologists’ presumption that IOU (Index of Opposition Unity) would not have mattered has been negated.

RJD legislator Saba Ahmad was frank enough.

“I hope it is a lesson. If united, the Opposition could have comfortably won the seat. Candidates of the Congress, JMM and the RJD were fighting for their own bloated egos. It was fight among them for supremacy, not a battle to defeat the BJP. The JMM and the Congress were eyeing the minority votes. Our own candidate wanted to show that he has Yadavs backing them. The Opposition reduced this election to a competition for garnering votes on the lines of caste and community,” Ahmad told The Telegraph.

The Opposition had repeatedly dubbed the elections a “referendum” on the performance of the Babulal Marandi government.

It had gone to town levelling charges of corruption against a regime which, it alleged, had done little for the development of the state. But the BJP’s convincing victory silenced them.

Firebrand CPI(M-L) legislator Mahendra Prasad Singh claimed the outcome was not a true reflection of the people’s feelings around the state.

Political observers, however, said the mandate was a boost of chief minister Babulal Marandi.

“What he failed to achieve in Dumka, he managed to do it in Godda. It shows that the BJP still commands respect in the tribal areas. Bulk of the backward Godda Lok Sabha segment is tribal-dominated,’’ said a local analyst.

“In Dumka, there was a social polarisation with the impoverished majority opposing the BJP. But Godda was an outcome of political polarisation of convenience. But it’s is a lesson nonetheless. If the secular forces want to fight communal fascism, they must bring down the contradictions among themselves,” he explained.

The JMM described the BJP’s victory an outcome of “misuse of official machinery” and “open use of money power”. But party central committee member Shailendra Bhattacharya said the Opposition parties must share the blame.

“The JMM was the runners-up in the previous election. That should have been reason enough for the Congress and RJD for not fielding their candidates. These two parties have betrayed the secular brigade. The role of the Congress was as suspect in Godda as in Gujarat. But fortunately Godda is not a reflection of any Hindutva upsurge. It is a bubble that will burst with time,” he added.