A few days ago, Union Minister and BJP MP from Hazaribagh, Jayant Sinha, triggered a controversy when he told a news channel that he and his party members provided financial assistance to convicts in the 2017 Ramgarh lynching case. Last year, Sinha had drawn flak for garlanding six men convicted for lynching cattle trader Alimuddin Ansari in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh.
But on the ground in the constituency, this does not appear to be a major issue. People are talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Balakot airstrikes and the medical college and 500-bed hospital — Modi inaugurated the college and laid a foundation stone for the hospital early this year.
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J P Gupta, who works in the administrative division of a college, told The Indian Express over phone, “We have to go to Ranchi in case of any medical emergency. The hospital would help us.” While there is anger in a few pockets against Sinha, people largely support Modi. Dr Vinod Michael, who practises homeopathy, said, “Jobs are a major issue. However, votes will be cast on Modi ji’s name.”
At Chirudih, where four villagers were killed in 2016 during a protest against land acquisition by the NTPC, local residents said that while there is anger against the BJP, a significant vote-swing is unlikely.
Asked about prospects of the Mahagathbandhan candidate, Congress’s Gopal Sahu, local residents said not many know him by face and he is an “outsider”. “Sahu needed to do a lot of ground work. Also, the fact that Sinha garlanded lynching convicts could not be exploited by the opposition. Public memory is short and barring a few intellectuals, this is not an issue here,” said a forest department employee.
Sahu, too, landed in controversy recently after Rs 22 lakh was seized from hotel rooms booked in his name. Subsequently, an FIR was registered. Sahu later clarified that the he had declared his cash with the EC.
Sinha is also expected to gain from the alliance of the BJP and All Jharkhand Student’s Union (AJSU), whose candidate received 1.56 lakh votes in the last election. “Due to the alliance, votes won’t be split. This is a safe seat for the BJP,” said a BJP leader. Former CPM MP Bhuvneshwar Prasad is also in the fray.
Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seat has five assembly segments — Barhi, Barkagaon, Hazaribagh, Mandu and Ramgarh. Hazaribagh and Ramgarh are held by BJP and AJSU, respectively, and Barhi and Barkagaon by the Congress. Mandu is held by JMM’s Jai Prakash Bhai Patel. Last month Patel rebelled against JMM and is now supporting NDA.