December 21, 2014

JHARKHAND POLLS - 2014

THE CONTENDERS

Fifteen years after it was carved out of districts comprising of southern Bihar, Jharkhand will vote in its fourth assembly elections over a period spanning nearly two months and in five different phases. Unfortunately, growing political instability and a strong presence of Naxalites have meant that the state has never been able to fulfill its true potential in spite of the fact that it is rich in minerals and other resources. As a matter of fact, ever since its creation, Jharkhand has seen nine Chief Ministers and three bouts of President's Rule making it the least politically stable state in the country in the last decade, leaving the likes of Goa and Meghalaya far behind. Hung assemblies have encouraged the politics of permutation and combination that have resulted in malpractices like horse trading, switching loyalties, merger, splits, unholy alliances and worst of all, rampant corruption and abuse of political power. With the results being scheduled on this Tuesday i.e. 23rd December, the question everybody is asking is whether the people of the state will give a clear majority to one of the parties or coalition this time.

If the results of the 2014 General Elections are anything to go by, 'political instability' in the state may soon become passé. Riding high on the Modi wave, the BJP which was fighting the polls on its own strength after talks of a merger with Babulal Marandi's JVM-P failed, won an unprecedented 12 out of the 14 seats from here. In spite of being in an alliance with the JMM, the Congress failed to even open its account. On the other hand, Soren's outfit won two of the four seats from where it fielded its candidates. Meanwhile, other parties like the JVM-P, the RJD and the JD-U too met the same fate as the INC.

The mood in the saffron camp is upbeat; the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and workers are confident that the trend seen in the Lok Sabha polls and the state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana will continue and the party will cruse past the half way mark along with its allies. PM Narendra Modi has addressed several rallies here that have seen attendance in large numbers. After dropping 12 seats in 2009 state polls, the BJP is confident of crossing the 40 mark this time around courtesy the Modi wave and the anti-incumbency against the incumbent Hemant Soren government. Former CM Arjun Munda (Kharsawan) and deputy CM Raghuvar Das (Jamshedpur - East) along with state party president Ravindra Rai and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha are said to be the front runner to occupy the top post in case the 'lotus' does bloom in Ranchi.

Unlike the recently concluded state polls in Haryana, the party, aware of the state's electoral past is not taking any chances. Though it failed to woo back its former leader Babulal Marandi into the saffron fold, the BJP has cobbled up a formidable alliance with several regional players. Sudesh Mahato led All Jharkhand Student's Union (AJSU) has entered into a pre-poll pact with the BJP and will contest eight seats. The Shikaripura seat will be contested by the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Upendra Kushwaha led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RSLP) too has pledged its support to the NDA though it will not contest any seats.

With party chief Shibu Soren battling illness, his son and the incumbent CM Hemant Soren is heading the electoral campaign of the Jharkhand Mukhti Morcha (JMM). Although he is fighting anti-incumbency and was abandoned by the Congress after the debacle in the General Elections, the one time MLA from the family stronghold of Dhumka has managed to get on board several turncoats from other outfits like Chamra Linda from the TMC as well as Krishna Gagrai and Nizamuddin Ansari from the JVM. All ministers in his regime and most of the incumbent JMM MLAs have been retained. Veterans including Niral Purty (Majhgaon), Joba Manjhi (Manoharpur) and Niel Tirkey (Simdega) have been nominated. Soren bahu Sita who is said to have a love-hate relationship with her family has been retained from Jama in spite of being behind the bars in the 2012 horse-trading case.

After managing to stem the Modi juggernaut in Bihar by allying with the RJD and the JD-U, the Congress party called off its partnership with the JMM in the state after the latter refused to accommodate its new allies in the state coalition. Following its disastrous showing in the General polls, not many think that the INC will put up a good performance. As per the seat sharing agreement between the three parties, the Congress will contest 56 seats, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will field nominations from 16 constituencies while leaving 9 seats for the Janata Dal - United (JD-U).

The state's first CM Babulal Marandi is confident of a good showing in spite of the fact that most of his 11 MLAs has jumped the ship prior to the polls. His party - the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha - Prajtantrik (JVM-P) won 11 of the 25 seats it contested in 2009 and he is confident of doing well again. Another former state CM, the controversial Madhu Koda who is still facing a CBI inquiry in cases of disproportionate assets is contesting from Majhgao whereas his wife Geeta is also contesting the polls from Jagganthpur.