Indian Express

The ‘Silli’ effect hold the surprise element in Ranchi

Cong, BJP and JVM(P), all of them had to rework their caste, tribal and religious vote bank calculations as soon as Sudesh Mahto entered the fray. Tweet This
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Sudesh Kumar Mahto's political opponents say Mahto, who hails from Lagam village within the Silli police station limits, spares no effort to win elections. Sudesh Kumar Mahto's political opponents say Mahto, who hails from Lagam village within the Silli police station limits, spares no effort to win elections.

Travelling from Ranchi, there is an area 6-7 km ahead of Silli town called Chordera — the place where thieves live, literally. However, on many buildings that have come up in the area since 2010 — a guest house and a multimedia theatre of the forest department, the area is called Ramdera — where Ram lives. In land records, the area continues to be Chordera, but if you are from Silli — and especially if you are a supporter of local MLA Sudesh Kumar Mahto — the area is now fit for the gods.

AJSU Party, of which Mahto (40) is president, is quite literally promising the biblical for Jharkhand. “I want our land to have an abundance of milk, honey, flowers and fruits,” begins the party’s manifesto, under the title ‘My Dream’. To prove that they walk the talk, AJSU Party points to Silli.

That the fight for Ranchi Lok Sabha constituency — which votes on April 17 — would be a messy affair was a foregone conclusion. While former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai is trying to complete a hat-trick of wins with the Congress, the BJP brought back old warhorse and four-time consecutive MP Ram Tahal Choudhary.

The influential president of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association and former ADG of Police Amitabh Choudhary, a bald man, is the candidate of Babulal Marandi’s JVM(P), whose electoral symbol, ironically, is the comb. Mandar MLA and former state minister Bandhu Tirkey, who merged his party with the TMC, is another candidate.

However, all of them had to rework their caste, tribal and religious vote bank calculations as soon as Sudesh Mahto entered the fray. “Everybody could forget getting votes from Silli — and maybe even Ichagarh — assembly constituencies for starters,” said a Congress leader.

The BJP seemed to be the worst-hit by Sudesh’s decision — Choudhary is a Kurmi, the same caste which forms Mahto’s base in Silli. The BJP was quick to point fingers at the Congress, alleging that Mahto was a dummy candidate. If he ever was one, Mahto gave sweaty palms even to the Congress as campaign ended on April 15, with little to choose between the BJP, Congress and AJSU Party.

Wearing shorts and sitting cross-legged on the floor of his camp office in Silli on the morning of the last day of campaigning, Mahto was preparing to address a rally elsewhere.

“We do work throughout the year. I am here all the time. I do not need to make last-minute runs through Silli,” he said. Silli is that rare place in Jharkhand where one would hear the words, “We do not lack anything,” even if it was spoken by a supporter. “Silli ko continued…

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