The voters of Palamu Lok Sabha constituency, who sent a Maoist to Parliament in 2009, could end up voting for a former DGP during whose tenure their outgoing MP was in jail.
Kameshwar Baitha of the JMM was in a Bihar jail when election results were declared in 2009, declaring him a winner. Former CPI-Maoist Zonal Commander Baitha’s affidavit said that he had 46 criminal cases against him in 2009, making him the MP charged in most cases in the 15th Lok Sabha. He was arrested in 2005 and was released on bail in 2011.
V.D. Ram was Jharkhand’s Director General of Police even as Baitha was housed in four jails in Bihar and Jharkhand, and also at Tihar when Parliament sessions were on. Now, after retiring in 2011, Ram wants to contest from Scheduled Caste-reserved Palamu as the BJP’s candidate. He was DGP for two terms, one ending in 2006 and the other, in 2010.
The BJP has emerged as the early leader in Palamu and Ram could win if he secures the party ticket. He joined the party in April 2013 and has been touring the constituency since. “I have met all 41 mandal presidents here, visited 150 villages,” said Ram. He refused to evaluate Baitha’s tenure. “It is for the people to judge how good an MP he was. However, all I can say is that he has lost all popularity in Palamu,” he said.
Baitha has left the JMM after the party offered the seat to the Congress — and it, in turn to the RJD — according to the United Progressive Alliance’s seat-sharing arrangement. Former Palamu MP Manoj Kumar, expelled in the 2005 cash-for-questions scam, has been re-nominated by the party for the seat.
The JMM had indicated to Baitha — who contested unsuccessfully in the 2007 Palamu by-poll as a BSP candidate — that it did not want him around anymore. So, he has tried going over to the BJP. On March 6th, he claimed that he had joined the party after talking to former CM Arjun Munda. However, it turns out, the BJP is hesitant. “He has submitted a letter requesting membership. The party is yet to consider it,” said BJP spokesperson Sanjay Seth.
The BJP faces a problem of plenty in Palamu. Apart from Ram and Baitha, former IAS officer Mukhtiar Singh and three-time-MP Braj Mohan Ram also want to contest. Ram is camping in Delhi, trying to persuade his party’s central leadership. “I am confident of winning if given a chance. I was MP three consecutive terms before losing to Manoj Kumar. In 2009, I did not even get an opportunity to contest as Palamu went to the JMM in the seat-sharing arrangement,” said Ram.
Former DGP Ram too, does not have a spotless record. He was removed from his position during the second tenure after allegations of an inappropriate withdrawal of Rs. 5.6 crore from the Secret Service Fund.
If Baitha’s history is any evidence, he might contest even as an Independent this time if BJP denies him a ticket. In that case, the former Maoist and the policeman will slug it out in Palamu.