As Shibu Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) and the Congress try to form a Mahagathbandhan against the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand, one of the hurdles is the Godda Lok Sabha seat.
The constituency has been won by the BJP since 1996, except 2004 when it went to the Congress’s Furkaan Ansari. The last two times (2009 and 2014), Godda was won by the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey. Of Jharkhand’s 14 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP holds 12.
In the Mahagathbandhan camp, both the JVM and Congress have their eyes on Godda, which has a mix of castes and a substantial Muslim population, giving both parties hope. It is also low on development indices, despite a wealth of natural resources like coal.
On February 13, the Congress’s Jharkhand in-charge R P N Singh had said the Godda seat would be contested by a Congress candidate.
However, that will not go down well with the JVM, whose senior leader Pradeep Yadav has been spearheading a local agitation against a thermal power plant.
Both Ansari and Yadav had been in the race last time too. Going by that performance, Ansari has a stronger claim, having finished not too far behind the BJP’s Dubey at Godda despite the Modi wave — getting 3.19 lakh votes (30.47 per cent of the total), to Dubey’s 3.80 lakh (36.25 per cent). Yadav had been a distant third, with 18.44 per cent of the votes.
However, Yadav, a sitting MLA from Poreyahat, one of the six Assembly segments under Godda, is hoping to capitalise on the agitation against the plant, plus anti-incumbency against the BJP government. “I have several cases slapped against me as part of the agitation. I know the mood of the people,” says the 57-year-old.
Should Yadav get the Mahagathbandhan ticket, the general view is that there will be a neck-and-neck competition. “The BJP has done work, like making an airport in Deoghar, building an AIIMS. But this time Pradeep Yadav is in the news,” says Anuj Yadav, an OBC.
Ansari, an MLA from Jamatara, attributes his loss last time to “conspiracy”. “I will abide by what party leaders say, but the ticket should come to me. Muslims, OBCs, the tribals and upper castes will vote for me,” asserts the 69-year-old. Of Godda’s 16 lakh-odd voters, OBCs form the largest chunk, followed by Muslims, tribals, upper castes, SCs and Christians.
Asked if Yadav enjoys an edge because of his role in the agitation against the power plant, Ansari says: “It is all politics. People tell me they have given land by their own volition.” But the Congress’s official line, as stated by spokesperson Alok Kumar Dubey, is that power generated from the plant “will be sent to Bangladesh”. “The government should pay heed to problems of local landowners.”