Before a modest gathering of nearly 200 people at Laxmi Nagar in Jamshedpur East constituency on Monday, rebel BJP leader and former minister Saryu Roy evoked his record of “selfless service” and intention to “root out corruption” as the prime motives to take on Chief Minister and incumbent MLA Raghubar Das.
Roy decided to contest against Das an Independent candidate after the BJP did not give him a ticket to contest elections — the rebel leader claimed it was Das who did not want him to contest polls. With Roy in the fray, the public opinion is now divided and political equations have changed in the two seats of Jamshedpur East and Jamshedpur West.
In Jamshedpur West, the BJP has fielded newcomer Devender Singh against Congress candidate and former MLA Banna Gupta. AIMIM and JVMP are also in the fray. In Jamshedpur East, Congress has pitched Gourav Vallabh against Raghubar Das while JVM’s Abhay Singh is also in the fray.
Elections will be held in the two segments on December 7.
As people cheered for Roy in Laxmi Nagar, some gathered at a local salon in Dimna Chowk in Roy’s former constituency of Jamshedpur West, discussing whether the Congress or BJP will lead in the “absence” of Saryu Roy. They seemed divided with some BJP supporters considering to vote for the Congress.
In the 2014 elections, Roy had polled 95,323 votes while Congress’s Gupta got 84,803 votes in Jamshedpur West.
Ram Vilas Thakur, who is in his mid 60s, claimed, “I am a dedicated BJP supporter and had Saryu Roy been contesting, I would have pledged my support. But I don’t know the new candidate. On the other hand, people know (Banna) Gupta, and his work.”
However, a customer at the salon disagreed. “The AIMIM and Congress will cut each other’s vote and BJP will benefit,” he said requesting anonymity.
Among sizeable voters in the constituency are Muslims with various sources pegging the number at 1 lakh.
Appealing to people to vote for party candidate Reyaz Sharif at a rally in Jamshedpur West constituency two days ago, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had invoked the death of Tabrez Ansari in a mob attack and called the BJP, RSS, Congress and Shiva Sena as “Ram aur Shyam ki jodi”, slamming the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra.
In Azad Nagar, a shopkeeper, Ghulam Mustafa said that he would support AIMIM while Ghulam Sarvar, a tailor, said he would vote for the Congress.
All eyes are now on PM Narendra Modi’s speech in Jamshedpur on December 3.
Vinay Gupta, head of the political science department at Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial College in Jamshedpur, said, “There is a disruption in both the seats and irrespective of the outcome, it is a dilemma… people are confused about whom to vote. However, the equation may change after PM Modi’s visit as his appeal may cut across all divide and consolidate the BJP supporters.”
In Jamshedpur East, Congress had come a distant second in the 2014 election with Raghubar Das polling 1,03,418 votes against 33,261 polled by the Congress.
Congress, which is part of an alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and RJD, has fielded XLRI professor Gourav Vallabh.
However, Leader of Opposition and JMM working president Hemant Soren supported Roy after he announced his candidature. Soren said that Roy had raised his voiced against corruption in the last five years and carved his own identity. “If Saryu Roy fights against the CM, I appeal to the entire opposition to support him.”
Roy recently thanked Soren and the JMM on social media for their support.
This has confused a few voters. “With the JMM supporting Roy, the fight is between Saryu Roy and Raghubar Das. We will vote accordingly.”
However, Das does not seem to be a clear winner this time. Many who claimed to be BJP supporters told The Indian Express that they would vote for a “clean man” this election, referring to Roy.
From a tea stall owner to auto-rickshaw owners, many said they were not happy with Raghubar Das.
Some were of the opinion that Congress’s Vallabh may also poll many votes.
Auto driver Bablu Singh said, “We know that Roy took up several issues for people. His image is of an honest man…We gave our support (to BJP) last time. We need change this time.”
Sambhu, a snacks vendor, said, “It is true that people are supporting Roy but I support BJP. This is the government which gave me ration at my home. And I will vote for Modi-ji.”
A supervisor at the steel company, Ajay Jha, disagreed. “There are block closures since many months. Many labourers are left jobless. Onions are being sold at 100 rupees a kilogram. Where is the development? Raghubar Das has not done good for us. We will support Roy this time,” he claimed.