Is the BJP heading for trouble in Jharkhand? News from the ground suggests so. There was polling in four constituencies – Ranchi, Kodarma, Khunti and Hazaribagh — on Monday, May 6. The state seeing an increase in voter turnout this voting season and the reason is being attributed to anti-incumbency due to the ‘double-engine government’. A BJP government led by Raghubar Das is in the state too.
When the state had gone to polls on April 29, it had reported 64.97% from three constituencies, while in 2014, it was 57.4%. But on Monday, by 6.15 pm it had crossed 63%. The voting percentage was about 64.23% till 7 pm.
BJP has been hoping to retain all the 12 seats they had won in Jharkhand, but the voting percentage suggests that they are likely to lose a majority of the seats.
Queues were seen in all constituencies including Hazaribagh, where the BJP candidate is Yashwant Sinha’s son Jayant Sinha. The Congress candidate in the area is Gopal Sahu. While it was widely expected that it would be a clean sweep for BJP, the queues in almost all the polling booths suggest otherwise.
It was in Hazaribagh’s Ramgarh that Alimuddin Ansari was dragged out of his cab and thrashed to death by an unruly mob of cow-vigilantes. Jayant Sinha had garlanded the accused once they got bail and had even paid their legal fee.
Hazaribagh comprises five Assembly constituencies –Barhi, Barkagaon, Ramgarh, Mandu and Hazaribagh. “In four of these Assemblyconstituencies except for Ramgarh, the voting percentage is high. This gives ushope that it will not be a walkover for BJP. There is a glimmer of hope,” says a Ranchi-based poll watcher.
“A higher voting percentage in the state means bad news for the BJP. This time everyone who can is coming to vote and that can only go in the favour of Mahagatbandhan. In 2019, it is the turn of the silent voter,” explains Ashok Verma, a former journalist and social activist.
In Kodarma, former CM Babulal Marandi is contesting against BJP’s Annapurna Yadav, who switched from RJD just days before her announcement. The sitting MLA is Ravinder Rai, was denied a ticket by BJP. This slight has angered his Bhumihar caste members. There is also CPI(ML)’s Rajkumar Yadav in the fray. “Other than Kodarma, Marandi seems to have the lead in the other five constituencies – Barkatha, Dhanwar, Bagodar, Jamua and Gandey. Jamua is an SC seat and almost 70% of their votes are going to Marandi. And that is the case in all districts here,” explains Varma.
Ranchi, the capital is likely to go the Congress way. BJP’s sitting candidate Ramtahal Choudhury was denied a seat and instead was given to businessman Sanjay Seth. An angered Ramtahal is contesting as a rebel BJP candidate. The Congress candidate Subodh Kant Sahay had won the seat in 2004 and 2009. He was defeated in 2014. Of the six Assembly constituencies here - Ichagarh, Hatia, Silli, Ranchi, Khijri and Kanke – Choudhury will cut into BJP votes in Ichagarh, Silli and Khijri.
Khunti, which had initially seen BJP’s Arjun Munda take lead, is seeing voting in favour of the Congress candidate Kalia Charan Munda. “The people here are fed up of the government’s attempt to intimidate people. There are more paramilitary forces in Khunti than the people itself. They pick the villagers at will. How long will people tolerate it. Anyone is better than BJP,” says a local resident, who did not want to be named.