Beaten in 2004 after winning twice previously, BJP's National Vice-President Yashwant Sinha is facing an uphill task in the Hazaribagh Lok Sabha constituency this time.
His poll opponents are CPI's sitting MP B P Mehta, Congress MLA Sourav Narayan Singh and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha's (Prajatantric) Braj Kishore Jaiswal. Sinha is depending on the anti-incumbency factor in the politically unstable state to see him through on April 16.
"The people of Jharkhand are fed up with two successive UPA governments, which forced President's Rule, and the failure of the Manmohan Singh government and want change," claimed Sinha, who won the seat in 1998 and 1999 before losing to Mehta in 2004.
Rubbishing Sinha's claim, Mehta, who also won the seat in 1991, alleged that the BJP's 'communal politics' would fail to fetch votes. "I have done a lot in my constituency in the last five years from my MP fund. Merely inciting communal feelings will not fool the electorate," Mehta said referring to BJP president Rajnath Singh raising the Ram Temple issue at election meetings in the constituency.
Sinha also faces Congress MLA Sourav Narayan Singh, a member of the Ramgarh estate who is counting on his uncle late 'Raja of Ramgarh' Basant Narayan Singh. The senior Singh had entered Parliament from Hazaribagh in 1967 (Swatantra Party), 1977 (Janata Party) and 1980 (BJP).
The 34-year old Singh, who represents the assembly from Hazaribagh assembly constituency, is banking on the Congress' traditional votes from Dalits and minorities, besides those of the upper caste.
"The people will vote for the Congress for its pro-people projects, particularly the National Employment Guarantee Act. As an MLA, I have brought several schemes. Development of the constituency is the priority of my party," said Singh, for whom AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi had canvassed.
Besides Singh, what might hurt the former external affairs minister most is the defection of Braj Kishore Jaiswal from BJP to Babulal Marandi's JVM(P).
"The Vaishya, the Teli and Sao communities comprise 4.7 lakh among the total 12 lakh voters in Hazaribagh, and all will vote for Babulal Marandi's party as he is the fittest person to bail out Jharkhand from its ills of corruption and extremism," Jaiswal claims.
Jaiswal, who had virtually been the campaign manager of Sinha in 1999 and 2004, switched over to the Marandi camp after the former chief minister snapped ties with the BJP to float the JVM(P).