Jharkhand 2019

Jharkhand Assembly elections | Defections from Congress worry JMM


Regional party now feels that it has conceded too many seats to its alliance partner

Pradeep Balmuchu, former MP, is one of the three former presidents of the Congress’s Jharkhand unit who defected to other parties just ahead of the Assembly election, a fact that has complicated the fight in his Ghatsila constituency.

Mr. Balmuchu, a former Jharkhand Assembly Speaker, moved to the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), while the other former party State unit presidents, Sukhdeo Bhagat and Ajay Kumar, moved to the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), respectively, raising important questions over not just the state of the Congress in Jharkhand but also whether the party votes follow the symbol or the candidate.

It underlines a feeling in the Congress’s alliance partner, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), that perhaps too many seats were conceded to the national party.

“I haven’t met a single Congressman here who questioned my leaving the party. I didn’t want to leave, but I was feeling suffocated. I told party leaders and high command more than three months ago that I will fight with or without the party symbol, because if I don’t, I will lose my claim to the seat and my ground support will go over to others,” he told The Hindu.

The seat was last held by the BJP, and not throwing his hat in the ring, Mr. Balmuchu said, would have finished off his political support base. He said the Congress’s vote in Ghatsila was attached to his candidacy and it would transfer to him despite his defection to the AJSU. The silence of the Congress leadership to such an appeal from a senior leader is giving the JMM sleepless nights.

The JMM has fielded Ramdas Soren who beat Mr. Balmuchu in the 2009 election in the seat.

At least four Independents from the prominent Santhal community in the area are in the field, a cause of worry for the JMM which commands the support of the community. The party alleges that the Independents have been propped up by the BJP to divide the votes. Mr. Balmuchu too says the division in the Adivasi votes may hurt the JMM, as he has, even in the past, “not got more than 30% of the Santhal vote”.

The BJP dropped its sitting MLA, Laxman Tudu, and fielded Lakhan Mardi instead, looking to field a local candidate and address younger voters in the constituency, who number up to 49% of the votes.

The JMM’s leadership may have prevailed over the Congress in not conceding the Ghatsila seat, but is worried over the large number of seats it has given over to the party in the seat-sharing arrangement with it and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

The Congress is fighting 31 seats, despite its internal issues and somnolent organisational situation. “Congress haathi hai, uska bada pait hai, khilaana toh padega [Congress is like an elephant with a big stomach and has to be fed accordingly],” said a senior JMM leader in Ranchi.

“We wanted to concede just around 25 seats, or fewer, as the Congress had won only six seats the last time around, but had to agree on more. There was no way the alliance would have been stitched up without it,” said a senior leader of the JMM.

The JMM is hoping that Congress voters follow the party symbol rather than individual candidates in the polls.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 7:30:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/jharkhand/defections-from-cong-worry-jmm/article30125772.ece

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