The BJP will attempt to start on a clean slate when Jharkhand begins voting on November 25, with only one of its 12 first-phase candidates having contested under the party’s banner in 2009.
The party, which has put forward the single-line agenda of forming the state’s first “stable” government, will need to drastically improve on its 2009 performance, when it won only three of the 13 seats in the first phase, having contested eight. The BJP has never been a dominant force in the Palamu region. Considered closer to Bihar than Jharkhand in terms of character, Palamu has been an RJD-JD(U) stronghold, but BJP insiders this time are confident they are on course to win at least six of the 13 seats.
The solution that the BJP seems to have come up with in its effort to win at least 42 of the state’s 81 seats is to go back to the drawing board for the first phase: it has retained only one of its three legislators and none of its five unsuccessful candidates from 2009. The AJSU Party, now a BJP ally, has retained its lone representative, Kamal Kishor Bhagat in Lohardanga; Amit Shah on Sunday campaigned for him.
Harikrishan Singh of Manika is the legislator retained. Party sources say the BJP heeded the RSS’s advice when it decided not to retain its Gumla MLA, bringing in Shivshankar Oraon instead. At Latehar, it had to nominate candidates twice: Narayan Bhokta was dropped after it came to light that he was a commander of the LWE organisation TSPC, and former Lok Sabha member Brajmohan Ram was fielded in his place.
Four new recruits have been awarded BJP tickets, at Bishrampur (a defector from RJD), Chattarpur (from Congress), Garhwa (from JVM-P) and Bhawanathpur (from Congress). Ticket distribution by all parties in this phase was done literally at the eleventh hour, and many candidates were late in submitting nominations.
The JMM and the RJD will not have candidates in Chattarpur and Bhawanathpur because of poor planning. When the JMM’s attempt to bring in Umesh Paswan from the LJP for Chattarpur failed, it gave the ticket to AJSU Party defector Brinda Paswan, who failed to reach the office in time for his nomination. In Bhawanathpur, when outgoing Congress MLA Anant Pratap Deo defected to the BJP to become its candidate the day after he figured in the Congress’s list, the RJD claimed the seat. It awarded the ticket to the MLA’s brother Dharmendra Pratap Deo, who failed to reach in time.
In a letter to the Election Commission on November 6, JMM’s general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya wrote that the BJP’s candidates in Manika and Latehar successfully submitted their nominations at 3.27 pm and 3.15 pm respectively while the JMM’s Chattarpur candidate had his nomination rejected though he reached the office at 3.10 pm on November 5. The deadline ended at 3 pm.
BJP leaders in Garhwa district have refused to back the party’s Garhwa and Bhawanathpur candidates in earnest as they are defectors. “If our party leaders believe the Modi wave will help us win, why do we need to bring in candidates from other parties? This was a chance to reward people who have been working for the party. Now, if Modiji comes here and the candidate wins, all credit will go to Modiji,” said a leader close to Aloknath Pandey, who was hopeful of getting the Garhwa ticket.