All bets off in three tribal seats of Jharkhand voting on May 13 - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

All bets off in three tribal seats of Jharkhand voting on May 13

By, Khunti/singhbhum/lohardaga
May 11, 2024 10:14 PM IST

In 2019, BJP has won 11 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 14 in Jharkhand and its ally Ajsu Party has won one seat. The remaining two, Singhbhum and Rajmahal in Santhal Parganas, were won by JMM-led alliance. However, BJP’s victory margin in seats reserved for STs was small — 1,445 votes in Khunti and 10,363 votes in Lohardaga. Congress defeated BJP by 72,155 votes in Singhbhum.

The three Lok Sabha seats of Khunti, Singhbhum and Lohardaga in Jharkhand, reserved for scheduled tribes and going to vote on May 13, are set for a keen contest between the BJP and the INDIA bloc, though some Independents are also in the fray.

The three Lok Sabha seats of Khunti, Singhbhum and Lohardaga in Jharkhand are set for a keen contest (ANI)
The three Lok Sabha seats of Khunti, Singhbhum and Lohardaga in Jharkhand are set for a keen contest (ANI)

While BJP had won Khunti and Lohardaga in 2019, Singhbhum was won by Congress.

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

In 2019, BJP has won 11 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 14 in Jharkhand and its ally Ajsu Party has won one seat. The remaining two, Singhbhum and Rajmahal in Santhal Parganas, were won by JMM-led alliance. However, BJP’s victory margin in seats reserved for STs was small — 1,445 votes in Khunti and 10,363 votes in Lohardaga. Congress defeated BJP by 72,155 votes in Singhbhum.

Arjun Munda faces heat in Khunti

“It is difficult to predict the result with guarantee as everything is lukewarm this time round, be it election campaign or response of people. However, certain things are clear. Arjun Munda won from here and became a minister. Expectations were high from him. The one visible project which I remember that he did for the constituency was a free health mela in Khunti. Overall, he has failed to make a mark,” says Bir Singh Bodra, member of scheduled tribe and resident of Murhu block, around 20 kilometres from the Khunti district headquarters.

Bhola Ram Sahu, who runs a steel fabrication shop on the Khunti-Chaibasa national highway, says Congress candidate Kalicharan Munda, who is challenging Arjun Munda this time, is banking on the tribal votes. “Last time, Arjun took a lead in Kharswan and Tamar assembly segments where Kurmis have a sizeable population. Arjun Munda is also the preferred in the urban pockets while Kalicharan is stronger in the rural belt. A lot will depend on who is able to hold on to their forts on the voting day,” says Sahu, admittedly a staunch BJP supporter.

Khunti Lok Sabha constituency comprises six assembly segments, of which two are with BJP and four with Congress. Traditionally, Congress has been strong in tribal assembly constituencies. In the Christian-dominated Simdega assembly seat, from where Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay Yatra passed, Hiradhar Bhoi, a Gond tribal, said he was influenced by Gandhi and he will vote for Congress. “People are talking about vote for change,” he said.

Khunti hit the headlines in 2017 for the Pathalgadi movement started by tribals as a resistance campaign to assert their rights, including the right to sovereign territory. One of the faces of the movement, Babita Kachhap, is in the fray as an Independent. Aparna Hans from Jharkhand Party, led by former Kolebira MLA and minister Enos Ekka, is also in the race. While Congress leaders say these candidates would make any impact, BJP leaders claim they will benefit Arjun. “Be it Kachhap or Hans, all votes which would go to them would help us. However, what is more worrying for the party is the voting pattern in the Pathalgadi affected area. Last time, many people boycotted the polls, but this time they are likely to participate in the polling. If they choose to vote for Congress, it could matter, especially in a situation of tight contest,” a BJP leader, not willing to be quoted said.

Tables have turned in Singhbhum

In Singhbhum, sitting Congress MP Geeta Kora, wife of former chief minister Madhu Kora, who won in 2019 despite a pro-Modi wave, is fighting on a BJP ticket. She is up against Joba Majhi, a five-term legislator of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) from Manoharpur and a former minister in Hemant Soren cabinet.

Singhbhum Lok Sabha has six assembly segments and all are with ruling JMM-Congress alliance. The seat has traditionally seen a direct fight between Congress and BJP. However, since 2009, when Madhu Kora won Singhbhum Lok Sabha as an Independent, the Kora family has been a major factor in the constituency, which is dominated by the Ho tribe community to which the former CM belongs to. In 2014, Geeta Kora lost in a triangular contest to BJP’s Laxman Gilua.

Besides the chatter of “betrayal” by Koras among Congress supporters, the identity of Ho tribal sub-group is a major talking point in the constituency, which is home to rich iron ore mines and dense Sal forests. As per the political workers across parties, Ho community accounts for 60-70 per cent of the population in Singhbhum and has, therefore, been represented mostly by a Ho community member in the Parliament.

Joba Majhi is a Santhal, the most dominant tribal sub-group in the state. Chief minister Champai Soren, who represents Saraikea assembly that falls in the LS constituency, is a Santhal. However, his cabinet colleague Deepak Birua belongs to Ho group is most instrumental in backing Joba Majhi in the battle against Kora.

Roby Lakra, president of social group Kurukh Sarna Jagran Manch, says people of the area would not like to lose their Ho identity. “This is the only seat where we have our presence as it’s a matter of identity for around 60-70 per cent of the population here. People have also not taken it well the way Geeta Kora was surrounded and attacked by JMM workers during campaigning,” said Lakra.

Ashok Verma, a resident of Manoharpur and an activist, said, “I don’t think the issue of Ho versus Santhal is an issue this time round. It is true that the area has backed member of Ho community, but it also elected Krishna Maardi, a Santhal in 1991. Here work track record and accessibility of the candidates would be more important factors,” he said.

Arun Nag, a Congress worker sitting in the election office of the JMM at Manoharpur, said they were angry with the way Kora defected to the BJP. “We backed her with all our might last time round and that is why she won decisively. This time we are backing the JMM candidate also because she has done lot of work and is also very accessible to people,” he added.

“BJP was looking for a major Ho face after demise of former MP and state president Laxman Gilua. Local party leaders who have basically been fighting against the dominance of Koras in the zone are worried. They fear that if Kora wins, the family would become the most dominating force in the BJP in Kolhan belt,” a BJP leader from Chaibasa district unit said.

Lohardaga: BJP drops 2-term MP, JMM rebel creates uncertainty

Lohardaga Lok Sabha has seen a close contest in the past two elections. It comprises of five assembly seats and all five are held by Congress and JMM legislators.

Congress has fielded its former state unit chief Sukhdeo Bhagat, who lost to BJP’s Sudershan Bhagat by just over 10,000 votes in 2019. BJP has dropped Sudershan and given ticket to its national ST wing president Samir Oraon, a Rajya Sabha member.

Meanwhile, JMM strongman and three-term legislator Chamra Linda, who has rebelled against his party, has joined the fray as an Independent.

“Linda’s politics has been based on his aggressive demand of Sarna code in the Census for the tribals. He is also well connected due to his social initiative of promoting youth clubs in the villages. In 2009, he had pushed Congress’s Rameshwar Oraon to the third place and had garnered 1.18 lakh votes, while in 2014, he polled around 96,000 votes when he contested on TMC ticket. BJP’s fortunes would depend on his performance,” said Binod Singh, a resident of Lohardaga.

Ramesh Kumar, in-charge of the Congress election office in Lohardaga, said the 2019 election result mirrors the limited impact Linda would have in the election. “Even if you go by the numbers, he got around one lakh votes in 2009 and 2014. It’s not that all those votes are anti-Congress. If that had been the case all those votes should have gone to the BJP in 2019 when Linda did not contest. Rather his votes were divided equally and the difference in Congress and BJP votes was merely 10,000. So even if he gets some votes this time round, he would eat into the votes of both the BJP and the Congress,” Kumar said.

While Linda is posing external threat, the Congress candidate is also battling internal fighting. Former Lohardaga MP, Rameshwar Oraon, who currently represents Lohardaga in the assembly, is not campaigning for Bhagat. Similarly, Mandar MLA Shilpi Neha Tirkey, daughter of state Congress’s working president Bandhu Tirkey, is also not backing Bhagat. So much so that party-in-charge Gulam Ahmed Mir had to caution leaders at a recent meeting. “He told party leaders that assembly ticket will depend on votes Bhagat gets from their assembly constituencies,” said a party leader.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, June 16, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On