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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Rape bid charge against GA nominee, ex-MP’s exit from race twists the tale

Leaders of the Opposition Grand Alliance parties have stepped up their election campaigns in the Santhal Parganas,

lok sabha elections Updated: May 17, 2019 13:02 IST
Lok Sabha elections 2019,GA nominee,Opposition Grand Alliance
Marandi said that the government designed schemes to usurp lands belonging to farmers and tribes for development and amended the Land Act.(ANI/ File Photo)

Leaders of the opposition Grand Alliance parties have stepped up their election campaigns in the Santhal Parganas, giving the last push in the region where three Lok Sabha constituencies will go to polls on May 19, the last phase of the 2019 general elections.

The candidates in the fray are Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren from Dumka; JMM’s Vijay Hansdak from Rajmahal; and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) leader Pradip Yadav from Godda. This is a very important phase for both the opposition and the ruling party as Santhal Parganas is the region where the homegrown, tribal-oriented parties of the state have a bigger hold than the national party.

On Tuesday, three former chief ministers were on campaign trails at different places in Santhal Parganas. Leading the campaign was JMM working president Hemant Soren, his father Shibu Soren, and JVM(P) president Babulal Marandi, besides Yadav and Hansdak, who have been touring extensively, wooing the voters. Shibu Soren campaigned by helicopter at Mohanpur and Sundarpahari in Godda and Jamtara. Babulal held five election meetings in Godda and Rajmahal. Hemant campaigned at four places in Gumani, Boreo, Patna, and Pakur.

Grand Alliance partner Congress, too, is stoking the fire in the region and it has so far brought in All-India Congress Committee leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Tariq Anwar to support the GA candidates in this region.

The ball was set in motion by Azad, who campaigned for the Grand Alliance candidates in Godda and Jarmundi on May 8. Anwar campaigned in Sahebganj, Rajmahal, and Jamtara two days ago. Congress MLA from Farakka (West Bengal) Mainul Haque also campaigned here, along with Congress legislature party leader Alamgir Alam and party MLA Badal Patralekh.

There was a show of cross constituency solidarity among the opposition allies. While campaigning in Sundarpahari, Shibu Soren urged voters to cast their vote for Pradip Yadav; in Mohanpur, Shibhu pleaded with people to vote for his party nominee Hansdak. The septuagenarian leader told the people in Jamtara to elect him from Dumka. He had to return from Kundahit, where his programme was cancelled due to bad weather.

Hemant, too, had to cancel his Kathikund programme due to rough weather. Earlier, he addressed gatherings at Gumani, Boreo, and Pakur and asked the voters to show the BJP the exit door.

“The BJP has an ill intent in attempting to modify the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, which hit the wall due to JMM’s protest. The saffron party, however, managed to do amend the Central Land Act, 2013, to favour a few business houses,” said Hemant.

JVM(P) chief Babulal Marandi, batting for his party general secretary Pradip Yadav at Karakdih in the Godda constituency, said that BJP was fooling the people. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to fulfil the promises he made in 2014. Modi had promised 2 crore jobs every year and to give ₹15 lakh to each citizen of the country after bringing black money back to India,” he said, pointing to the unemployment scenario of the Santhal Parganas.

“There are no jobs and BJP is dangling the carrot, saying Adani power plant will create HEMANT SOREN, JMM leader BABULAL MARANDI, JVM(P) chief jobs,” said Marandi, adding that “outsiders will get jobs and the local people will be left out, as most do not have the requisite qualification”. Moreover, he said, one power plant could not fulfil the people’s aspirations.

Marandi said that the government had designed schemes to usurp lands belonging to farmers and tribes in the name of development and amended the land act accordingly. He exhorted the people to “reject the game plan” of the government and the BJP.

The ex-CM also highlighted the situation regarding the nonavailability of doctors and medicines in Jharkhand’s government hospitals, and held the government’s apathy responsible for the patients’ suffering. GODDA: The electoral battle for the Godda parliamentary seat has turned out to be interesting, following sexual harassment charges against the opposition Grand Alliance candidate, Pradip Yadav.

Godda is heading for a direct fight between BJP candidate Nishikant Dubey and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) nominee Pradip Yadav, as the former Congress MP from Godda, Furqan Ansari, who had bought nomination papers to contest the polls, withdrew his name at the last moment.

The constituency goes to polls in the seventh national phase (Jharkhand’s fourth phase) on May 19. Nearly 16.92 lakh voters would exercise their franchise on that day. It is a tight fight since Dubey is a sitting parliamentarian and Yadav is a sitting legislator. So, both have a good degree of on-the-ground influence.

However, political observers said that sexual harassment charges levelled against the JVM(P) candidate just a fortnight before the polling might dent the Grand Alliance voter bank. A woman office-bearer of the JVM(P) has filed a case of sexual harassment against Yadav on May 4.

VOTERS’ ISSUES

Migration, child marriage, health, safe drinking water, and displacement are the major problems that people in Godda have been facing, but these issues never made it to the poll agenda of any political party, said a section of voters in the constituency.

Sashi Hembrom, a migrant labourer from the Poreyahat assembly constituency within the Godda Lok Sabha seat, said, “Migration and lack job opportunities are among the major problems of the constituencies. Thousands of people in the age group of 16-45 years have to migrate to other states in search of jobs.”

Md Sarfaraj, a Godda assembly constituency resident, said that child marriage figures were the highest in Godda district with 63.5% of the total marriages in the country, according to the National Family Health Survey 4, and that this was mainly due to a lack of education. He said that the average literacy rate of Godda was 56.4%, and female literacy was merely 44.14%, according to the 2011 Census.

The constituency also hit the headlines last year following protests by villagers against two power plants, as farmers allegedly did not want to give away their fertile lands for such a project. The villagers also had a fear of displacement because of these projects.

JVM(P) leader Pradip Yadav, who has been championing the agitation against the power plants, said, “Thousands of acres of fertile [farm] land were taken for the power plant. But, Jharkhand will not get any benefit of this [power project]. This is the major political issue this election in the area.” He said that development and unemployment were the other prime issues of the constituency.

BJP’s Godda MP Nishikant Dubey admitted to the high rate of unemployment in the area. “My focus would be to create the maximum job opportunities in the area in my next term. Hordes of mega projects, such as plastic park, software technology park, and others have been initiated that would create large-scale jobs in the area,” Dubey said. The MPLAD (Member of Parliament local area development) fund data till February 2019 show that the minister utilised only 57.61% of the total fund he was allotted, but Dubey claimed that all projects required for the development of his constituency

Godda had been initiated. “[An] AIIMS, the international airport at Deoghar, two power plants, and five highways are some of the big projects. Besides, a series of small projects, including 250 bridges and culverts, and drinking water projects have also been implemented,” he said.

POLITICAL SCENARIO

The Godda parliamentary constituency comprises parts of three districts: Godda, Deoghar, and Dumka. It has six assembly segments: Jarmundi, Madhupur, Deoghar, Poreyahat, Godda, and Mahagama.

The constituency has seen 15 Lok Sabha elections since 1962. Initially, the seat was ruled by the Congress, and later it went to BJP. Excluding the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, when the seat went to the Congress’ Furqan Ansari, BJP has been winning the seat since 1996. Jagadambi Prasad Yadav won the seat four times, one time on a Bharatiya Lok Dal ticket in 1977, and three times on a BJP ticket, in 1996, 1998, and 1999.

The Congress has won the seat six times; BJP seven times; and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha bagged the seat once in 1991. BJP’s Nishikant Dubey has held the seat for two consecutive terms since 2009.

Of the six assembly seats, BJP has four seats, while the Congress and JVM(P) have one seat each.

SOCIAL STRUCTURE

The constituency is dominated by Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Muslims. OBCs constitute 24% of the total population, while Muslims constitute 20%. The constituency has 13% Scheduled Caste and 11.11% Scheduled Tribe populations. BJP mostly banks on the OBC votes, while the Grand Alliance eyes the Muslim and ST votes. SC voters play a crucial role in the segment, sometimes deciding the fate of the candidates.

First Published: May 15, 2019 17:08 IST