Ranchi: The third phase of Jharkhand polls is crucial for the political survival of two former chief ministers, Shibu Soren and Babulal Marandi, who head two key regional parties of the state.
The four seats which go to the polls Thursday are Dhanbad, Dumka, Rajmahal and Godda. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won three of the four seats in 2009, while JMM had won the Dumka seat.
In the third phase, all eyes are on Dumka where former chief minister and president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) Babulal Marandi and another former chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren are locked in a fight.
Both leaders have a large following in the tribal community.
Dumka has been the traditional seat of the JMM for more than three decades.
In 1855, Siddu and Kanhu, two tribal youths had revolted against British rule. Santhal Pargana district was formed and Dumka was headquarters of the district. Now six districts fall in the region.
Santhal Pargana is considered as a bastion of the JMM and a large number of JMM legislators come from this region.
JMM chief Shibu Soren won the Lok sabha poll in Dumka for the first time in 1980. He was elected MP in 1989, 1991, 1996, 2002 bypoll, 2004 and 2009.
The Dumka seat is a prestige issue for both Shibu Soren and his son Hemant.
Both Soren and Marandi are fighting the poll each other after 16 years.
Marandi was defeated by Soren in 1991, and 1996. Marandi defeated Shibu Soren in 1998 and Rupi Soren, wife of Shibu Soren, in 1999.
Marandi, a sitting MP from Koderma, opted this time to fight from Dumka.
The political fate of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren also depends on the outcome of the Dumka poll.
Hemant Soren is a legislator from Dumka. Both father and son are campaigning vigorously to retain the seat. Hemant Soren has taken command of the Dumka poll and he addresses four to five rallies every day.
The BJP has fielded Sunil Soren who was defeated by Shibu Soren by a margin of over 18,000 votes in 2009. Political experts say the BJP may get the benefit in the fight of the two big leaders.
“Our party will win all the four seats. Our candidate will register victory in Dumka,” Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Pradeep Singh told IANS.
JMM hopes to win all three seats of Santhal Pargana – Dumka, Rajmahal and Godda.
“We are comfortable in Dumka and Guruji (Shibu Soren) will register victory by a large share of votes. UPA will win all three seats of Santhal Pargana,” Supriyo Bhattarcharya, JMM general secretary, said.
Coal city Dhanbad is witnessing a fight among sitting BJP MP P.N. Singh, Congress’ Ajay Dubey and the TMC’s Chandra Shekhar Dubey. Dubey, a Congress legislator, quit membership of the assembly and joined the TMC to fight the poll. The fourth key candidate from Dhanbad is Samresh Singh, a JVM-P legislator.
Godda is witnessing a triangular fight between sitting BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, Congress’ Furkan Ansari and JVM-P legislator Pradeep Yadav. The fourth key candidate is former IPS official Subodh Prasad who is fighting on the All Jharkhand Student Union (AJSU) ticket.
In Rajmahal, both the BJP and the JMM are banking on borrowed players. The BJP has fielded Hemlal Murmu who was a JMM legislator and quit membership of the assembly just before the polls. The JMM has fielded Vijay Hansda who joined the party just before the election. He was a Congress leader. The BJP dropped its sitting MP Devi Dhan Besra.
The assembly polls are scheduled later this year and the Dumka seat result is expected to have an impact on the assembly poll.