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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Assembly Elections 2019: In Jharkhand’s Lohardaga, Congress, BJP, AJSU locked in 3-corner election battle

AJSU had won Lohardaga in 2009 and 2014, but lost the bye-election to Congress’ Sukhdeo Bhagat in 2015 after the sitting AJSU MLA Kamal Kishore Bhagat was convicted in a case. This seat was a Congress forte till BJP won for the first time in 1995.

assembly-elections Updated: Nov 30, 2019 05:58 IST
Vishal Sharma
Vishal Sharma
Hindustan Times, Latehar
Jharkhand Congress in-charge RPN Singh, state Congress President Rameshwar Oraon and others release party's manifesto for Jharkhand Assembly elections, in Ranchi.
Jharkhand Congress in-charge RPN Singh, state Congress President Rameshwar Oraon and others release party's manifesto for Jharkhand Assembly elections, in Ranchi.(PTI)
         

The Jharkhand Congress chief Rameshwar Oraon and former head of Jharkhand Congress Sukhdeo Bhagat, who has switched over to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) are locked in what can be described as a clash of the titans in Lohardaga assembly constituency, a reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes.

Jharkhand will go into a five-phase assembly elections for its 81 seats starting November 30. The results will be declared on December 23.

The All Jharkhand Student Union (AJSU) candidate Niru Shanti Bhagat, who is the wife of AJSU founder and ex-legislator Kamal Kishore Bhagat will make this seat a three-cornered contest.

Political drama ensued after the election was announced, with sitting MLA Bhagat joining the BJP, and the AJSU fielding Neeru Shanti even before the alliance with the BJP was finalised. This seat has since been a bone of contention between the BJP and AJSU as the BJP wanted to field Bhagat while AJSU staked claim on the seat.

The announcement of their alliance and seat sharing pact was delayed due to AJSU’s demand of larger share in 2019 assembly elections — 19 seats, 11 more than what it had received in 2014 assembly elections — and particularly, the Lohardaga and Chandankiyari assembly constituencies. The alliance eventually broke down, with the AJSU fielding its own candidates.

AJSU had won Lohardaga in 2009 and 2014, but lost the bye-election to Congress’ Sukhdeo Bhagat in 2015 after the sitting AJSU MLA Kamal Kishore Bhagat was convicted in a case. This seat was a Congress forte till BJP won for the first time in 1995. This time around, former top cop and MP of Lohardaga parliamentary seat, Rameshwar Oraon, will try hard to regain hold over the seat for the Congress party.

“Lohardaga is a hub for bauxite mining and transportation, but the people here have to suffer and migrate in search of employment. Drinking water is their biggest problem. Lack of industries is another issue,” pointed out Babloo Oraon, a local resident.

”It’s odd that the sitting MLA who had all this while held the BJP responsible for these problems, is seeking votes in the name of BJP,” he added.

Sukhdeo Bhagat, however, insisted that the development initiatives taken by him as a Congress MLA were evidence of his commitment for the all-round development of the region.

“New roads, bridges in remote areas, electrification and drinking water facility for rural households, irrigation projects, cold storage and other schemes are some of the factors I focussed on,” Bhagat pointed out where?

Lohardaga seat has a sizable population of tribals, mainly the Oraons. They comprise nearly the 55% of the total 243,000-strong electorate. The rest are Other Backward Class (OBC) including Muslims and general category voters.

Deepak Mukherjee, a local political analyst said, “A direct fight between the Congress and the BJP seems eminent here. The AJSU candidate is trying hard to make it triangular.”

On asked what prompted the sitting Congress MLA to switch over to the ruling BJP, just ahead of the assembly election, Mukherjee said, “The BJP on this seat badly needed a vocal tribal leader like Sukhdeo Bhagat.”