Golbanda is a nondescript village of 2,000 people 30km from Dumka, the sub-capital of Jharkhand going to polls in the last phase on Thursday. Some 50 tribals gather in Dumka in the scorching summer afternoon to welcome Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) leader Babulal Marandi.
Marandi, the state’s former chief minister, is contesting the Dumka seat against sitting MP and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren, popularly known as Guruji.
Marandi appeals to Golbanda residents to end the rule of “corrupt JMM” and vote for change. “What have you achieved after electing Guruji for last two terms? Give me a chance and I will show you what development means,” he says.
“We have given Guruji many chances. He has never delivered on the promises he made every time,” says Sandip Tudu, a local, as others agree. Golbanda faces acute shortage of drinking water, has a dilapidated building in the name of primary health centre, and a school the teacher attends once a week. The village reflects Dumka’s disillusionment with Guruji, arguably the state’s tallest leader seeking his seventh (third consecutive) term.
Marandi who lost to Soren twice (1991 and 1996) and defeated him in 1998 from Dumka is back in Dumka to revive his 15-year-old rivalry with JMM chief. He is the incumbent MP from Koderma constituency, which he had won in 2004 too.
“Dumka is where my political career began, and I am back because my party wanted me to take on Soren,” Marandi says but refrains from attacking his rival. “I want to end the politics of khassi (mutton) and hadia (local liquor) that the JMM championed in Jharkhand.”
Soren, political analysts here say, is fighting ill health — his vision and memory are failing him — as well as anti-incumbency, and Marandi might have sensed an opportunity in Dumka.
“A defeat could be the end of the road for Soren and a setback for JMM,” Ramesh Saran, a professor at Ranchi University, says. But Soren is determined to hold on to Dumka.