Seven out of 16 seats that are going to polls on Saturday in the Santhal Parganas may upset the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) applecart of getting a clear mandate in the state.
Reason: Muslim voters call the shots in these seven seats.
In fact, as the Congress has failed to gain foothold in the region, the Muslims have shifted their loyalty to JMM in most of the seats they are dominating.
The minority community has almost 45% of voters in Pakur district's three assembly seats: Pakur, Litipara and Maheshpur.
While 35% of electors in Sahibganj's Rajmahal and Borio constituencies and Godda's Mahagama seat are Muslims, 32% of voters in Deoghar's Sarath constituency belong to the community.
During the 2009 polls, the JMM defeated the Congress in Pakur and Litipara seats, as both party candidates Aquil Akhtar and Simon Marandi won with the help of Muslim votes.
Similarly, Jharkhand Speaker and JMM leader Shashank Shekhar Bokta had the community's backing in Sarath.
Talking to HT, Akthar said, "The JMM has exclusive support in this region. This is our fortress as we have worked relentlessly for the people's development."
He further said the Congress had much to learn from the JMM.
However, Rajmahal sprang a surprise for the JMM as the BJP's Arun Kumar Mandal won by a margin of 10,000 votes against the ruling party's Mohd Tajiudin.
The constituency has over 40% of Muslim electors, though.
"Here Adivasi-Muslims and Hindus all vote for the BJP because it promises and does development work," said BJP nominee from Rajmahal Anant Kumar Ojha.
But Tajiudin retorted saying Mandal won the election because people wanted a change.
The Congress and the JVM-P's Rajesh Ranjan and Mistri Soren had won the Mahagama and Maheshpur seats, respectively in 2009 and the BJP was in the second position.
"The community will surely play an important role in bringing any party to power in the region. The Santhal Parganas have long been a mixed bag of Adivasi-Muslim and Christian voters. The parties like the JVM-P which has the roots in the region can only win," said JVM-P general secretary Pradip Yadav.
Trends show that the BJP has always been loser in the region.
From five seats in 2005 and 2000 elections, their strength has gradually declined in the Santhal Parganas.
However, the JMM has increased the number of seats from six in 2005 to seven in 2005 and nine in 2009.
Political observers said there were two choices before the minority voters, the JMM or the Congress.
They added the JMM which is going it alone in the ongoing polls and the Congress that entered into a pre-poll alliance with the Janata Dal-United and the Rashtriya Janata Dal might reap rich dividends in the
But all said and done, it's not easy to read the voters' mind.