More than 6.5 million voters in Jharkhand, one of the India’s poorest states, will on Wednesday exercise their franchise to elect 26 MLAs in the first phase of a five-phase election. About 470 candidates are in the fray.
But, in a warning to voters, Maoist rebels blew up four schools that were to serve as polling stations or as camps for security forces. The CPI(Maoists) have called for a boycott of the elections.
The remaining four phases will be held on December 2 (14 seats), December 8 (11 seats), December 12 (14 seats) and December 18 (16 seats) and the results will be announced on December 23. The Jharkhand assembly has 81 seats.
The nine-year-old state, 54 per cent of whose population lives below the poverty line, has had six chief ministers so far.
This time, the fight is a three-cornered one between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which had 36 seats in the outgoing Assembly, the Congress, which has a tie-up with former BJP chief minister Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas
Morcha, and Shibu Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
The NDA had won eight of the Lok Sabha seats from the state earlier this year.
If it can repeat this performance and win, then it is expected to choose a chief minister from among former chief minister Arjun Munda, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha and state BJP president Raghubar Das.
If, on the other hand, the Congress-led alliance wins, then Babulal Marandi is expected to become chief minister.
Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janaya Dal, which is fighting the polls in alliance wth Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and the Left parties and Madhu Koda’s fledgling Jai Bharat Jai Bharat Samanta Party are also contesting the elections. Koda has been in the news recently for allegedly engineering a Rs 2,000 crore graft and money laundering racket.