The BJP is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity to win the Jharkhand assembly election that kicks off next week as it faces a stiff challenge from avowedly secular parties on several key seats.
Party leaders say the pro-BJP sentiment will grow when Modi starts campaigning from November 21 in the tribal-dominated state that has battled political instability for 14 years.
This will be the third assembly election in Jharkhand which was carved out of Bihar in 2000. Since then the state has seen nine chief ministers and three stints of President’s Rule.
While local leaders say they are confident of a good showing, the BJP and ally AJSU will have to fight hard for about nine-ten seats in the first phase where they are up against the JMM, the Congress, the RJD and the JD (U) – part of a mercurial secular front.
“Modi is a storm that will blow away the opponents,” said Trivendra Singh Rawat, BJP’s Jharkhand in-charge. “We are not worried about the competition at all.”
The Prime Minister may hold his maiden rally in either Latehar or Palamu, sources said, two of the state’s most backward districts overrun with left-wing extremists.
Palamu, infamous for droughts and hunger deaths, has seen visits by prime ministers in the past, while this would be Latehar’s first rendezvous with a PM if Modi chooses to go there.
While the BJP is buoyant, opposition leaders say Modi’s “unwarranted” focus on the Jharkhand polls is a sign of apprehension. “Panic bells have started ringing in the BJP camp.
They know they will be restricted to 20-22 seats. Hence, they are clinging on to the Prime Minister’s shoes,” said JVM’s Latehar candidate Prakash Ram, who is up against BJP’s Braj Mohan Ram.
Modi will spend six days canvassing for the Jharkhand assembly polls while BJP president Amit Shah will address around 30 rallies in the state.
“In a short span, our government (at the Centre) has cleared stumbling blocks of several pending development projects like the 103-year-old Barwadih-Chirimiri-Ambikapur railway line to reduce the area’s distance to Mumbai by around 300 kilometres,” said Sunil Singh, BJP MP from Chatra.
Some tough seats for BJP
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>Daltonganj and Panki: Sitting legislators KN Tripathi and Videsh Singh, both representing the Congress, in driver's seat
>Sisai: Congress legislator and HRD minister Geetashree Oraon is the favourite
>Bishunpur: Legislator Chamra Linda, fighting on JMM ticket, poses tough challenge