One of the most widely anticipated campaign events in Jharkhand is a proposed public meeting to be attended by both Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. However, if their parties’ workers in Chattarpur and Hussainabad constituencies of Palamu district have any say, the two leaders cannot exist in the same hemisphere.
The alliance is imploding in Chattarpur (SC-reserved), Hussainabad and Manika (ST), where the two parties as well as the Congress have nominated candidates against one another. And in their haste to defeat one another, none of the three could manage even to get a candidate nominated for Bhawanathpur.
The RJD, which has five MLAs, declared it would contest 18 of the 81 seats. The Congress, which won 14 seats in 2009, was not willing to let it have more than 10. The JD(U), with only two MLAs, will contest six. “We are in talks with our allies to try and ensure some of the candidates in these constituencies stop campaigning,” said Ajai Rai, a spokesman for the state Congress.
In Chattarpur, the JD(U) has renominated MLA Sudha Chaudhary, while the RJD has fielded former MP Manoj Kumar. “This is a seat our party won in the last two elections. This was our natural claim,” said the JD(U)’s Surender Yadav, who coordinates Chaudhary’s campaign. “We told our senior leaders that we had to contest from here as the JD(U) MLA was not performing well,” said Kailash Yadav, the RJD’s Palamu unit vice-president.
The JD(U), for its part, has nominated a candidate for Hussainabad, which has a sitting RJD MLA. In both constituencies, RJD workers claim the Congress is supporting them. As if in proof, a Congress flag flies atop the RJD’s campaign office in Hussainabad. “Umesh Sahu contesting for the JD(U) is a good thing for us. He is a Mahajan and will take votes away from the BJP,” said Mohinudeen Ansari, MLA Sanjay Yadav’s representative.
In Manika, the RJD’s Ramchandra Singh submitted his nomination despite the Congress having named Muneshwar Oraon. “We are following the agreed terms of the alliance. This, despite the RJD supporting the JVM(P)’s Neelam Devi during the Lok Sabha elections behind the scenes because she was a Yadav,” said Chhotelal Prasad, the Congress’s Latehar general secretary. He said that in Latehar constituency, where the RJD has a candidate, his party has extended full support.
RJD leaders say the Congress has never won in this BJP bastion and that their candidate has won it twice, that too when the party contested alone. “Congress workers are themselves not happy with their party’s choice. A number of them are helping the JMM now. We have requested the Congress to ask its candidate to withdraw,” said Bindbihari Yadav, RJD block president.
In Bhawanathpur, none of the parties managed to field a candidate after a farcical sequence of events. Outgoing Congress MLA Anant Pratap Deo defected to the BJP and became its candidate the very day after he had been named in the Congress’s list. The RJD then claimed the seat, awarding the ticket to the MLA’s brother Dharmendra Pratap Deo. He could not make it in time to submit his papers.
The RJD has been aggressive in the region, which is close to Bihar. It does not mind isolating alliance partners even at the risk of losing a seat to the BJP, if it will help the party.