UPA allies gun for each other in Simaria

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  • Published 21.01.08

Ranchi, Jan. 21: The Madhu Koda government may have survived the Congress-created crisis for now, but its partners in the UPA have all set their eyes on the Simaria byelections to prove a point.

On the last day of withdrawal of nominations today, 14 candidates remained in the fray with the Congress making clear its intentions by not pulling out its nominee Yogendra Baitha. The RJD and the JMM have extended support to the CPI nominee, but the BJP and Babulal Marandi-led Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) have also made it a prestige issue by fielding candidates of their own.

Kuldeep Ganjhu, a Maoist behind bars, is contesting as an Independent.

The state government’s poor showing has become the central issue for the bypolls necessitated due to the death of BJP MLA Upendra Das.

In an effort to skirt the anti-incumbency factor, the CPI has declared that it would not request Koda or his cabinet colleagues to campaign for its nominee, Ram Chandra Ram, who finished second in the 2005 elections.

“Though the bypoll is not a mandate on the Koda government’s performance, we are not going to involve him and other ministers in campaigning,” said CPI state vice-president Khagendra Thakur. The CPI believes its nominee is on a good wicket this time since the RJD, JMM and other left parties are backing him.

Kaiser Mehboob Ali, AICC secretary and co-incharge of Jharkhand, however, claimed the Congress would win. “Our confidence comes from the fact that we came to the fore to dislodge the discredited government. Those who are part of the Koda government would not have the courage and moral authority to counter the Congress,” he said.

But, isn’t the Congress still a part of the Koda government? “Yes, but nothing changes overnight. We have already announced that we will withdraw support once elections are over. So, there should be no confusion about the Congress trying to enjoy power,” Ali pointed out.

The Simaria byelection is also an occasion for Babulal Marandi to test the waters. No wonder his men — Pradeep Yadav, Ranvindra Rai, Theodore Kido and Saba Ahmad — are all camping in the constituency.

The JVM, which has fielded Jai Prakash Bhokta, son of former legislator Mahendra Bhokta, is said to have hired two helicopters to campaign in every corner of the Naxalite-hit constituency. “We are leaving no stone unturned,” said JVM spokesman Deepak Prakash.

The BJP has fielded 26- year-old Ujjwal Kumar, a management graduate from Jadavpur University and son of former MLA Upendra Das, and hopes to ride the sympathy wave to retain the seat.