‘Maharashtra effect’ on Jharkhand polls

Former chief minister and JMM working president Hemant Soren. File Photo

Former chief minister and JMM working president Hemant Soren. File Photo   | Photo Credit: PTI

AJSU, LJP and JD(U), parties that are part of the NDA are fighting the Assembly election separately

As Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray prepares for an innings as Maharashtra Chief Minister, the alliance he heads and the manner of his ascension to that post has already had an effect on Jharkhand, now in the throes of Assembly polls.

In Lota, a small village in the Silli Assembly constituency, All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) chief Sudesh Mahto is at pains to underline to his voters that he has, indeed, broken away from the long-time ally, the BJP. “I am on my own, and this is a battle between me and the BJP. Nobody should be under any illusion that this is any kind of shadow-boxing,” he told The Hindu.

The AJSU, the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) and the Janata Dal (U), parties that are part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), are fighting the polls separately. They say they haven’t been treated with respect, while the BJP, as with the Shiv Sena, has asked them to acknowledge the ground reality and the BJP’s strength. Mr. Thackeray’s rise has made possibilities of a life beyond the NDA or as kingmaker tantalisingly alive.

“I have been firm on the issues that I have raised whether part of the government or not. My party was the first to speak on the amendments to the land acquisition Act proposed by the Raghubar Das government, and I am going to do in the future too,” Mr. Mahto said. The AJSU would contest upto 45 seats out of 81 in the Assembly.

Mr. Mahto’s assertions have been seen with a little scepticism by the Opposition. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Hemant Soren termed it shadow-boxing. “If Sudesh Mahto is fighting on his own then why hasn’t the BJP put up a candidate against him? This is part of the BJP’s ganit [calculation] to make it a multi-party contest and break the anti-BJP vote consolidation,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Mahto, however, strenuously denied the tag, stating that he had asked the BJP time and again to put up a candidate against him. “It’s their issue if they don’t,” he shrugged. “Before the State of Jharkhand was formed, I was the youngest MLA in the Bihar Assembly. Lalu Prasad offered to make me a minister in his government but I told him that I would rather stick to my demand for a separate State,” he added.

Campaigns go local

This is not the only “Maharashtra effect” on Jharkhand. Opposition parties are determined to keep the campaign issues local and engage the BJP on any anti-incumbency against the government. The JMM’s manifesto promises reservation in jobs for the OBC, SC and ST communities totting up to 67% and has repeatedly raised the issue of the amendments to the land acquisition Act attempted by Mr. Das’s government. Local identity is also an issue, with Mr. Das being portrayed as an outsider to the State and the JMM and AJSU as parties that fought for its formation.

The JMM is also supporting Saryu Rai, a former minister in Mr. Das’s government, who is now the rebel candidate against the latter in Jamshedpur (East). This, despite the Congress, the JMM’s ally, fielding Gaurav Vallabh here.

“Mr. Rai has a high reputation of being honest and his campaign against the Das government is getting some traction, we feel,” said a source from the JMM.

Political ideas have a fluidity beyond geographies, events in India’s west, are impacting polls in the east.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:33:33 PM |

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