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Nationalism, Sarna religion code key poll issues in tribal-dominated Lohardaga Lok Sabha seat

Lohardaga constituency covering three districts of Lohardaga, Ranchi and Gumla is reserved for the scheduled tribe (ST). The constituency comprises of Lohardaga (ST), Gumla (ST), Bishunpur (ST), Sisai (ST) and Mandar (ST) assembly segments.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 17:11 IST
Vishal Sharma
Vishal Sharma
Hindustan Times, Latehar
lok sabha elections 2019,lohardaga LS seat,lok sabha polls in jharkhand
Members of the Sarna tribe in Jharkhand have been demanding a religious code so that they can have a separate identity. Presently, nature worshipping tribal families are termed as Hindus in the census register.(Diwakar Prasad/ HT File )

Issues concerning common people seem to have been pushed into background as Sarna religious code, land rules and national security hogged limelight in Jharkhand’s Lohardaga parliamentary constituency that goes to polls on April 29.

The key issues like rail link to Gumla, completion of bypass road at Gumla, rampant pollution from bauxite transportation, absence of industries, unemployment, large scale migration, inadequate health and education infrastructure as well as pervading left wing extremism have not come into the centre stage of the prevailing electoral narrative in a region that mostly dominated by the scheduled tribes.

On the other hand, the key rivals parties – the Congress and the BJP - are heavily banking on Sarna religion code, amendments in land laws like Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and national security to woo voters.

Sarna religious code relates to demand for a separate identity in Census for the tribal people who worship nature and are presently mentioned as Hindu or Others. Tribal people in Jharkhand have been demanding this code so that they can have a separate identity. Presently, nature worshipping tribal families are termed as Hindus in the census register.

Lohardaga constituency covering three districts of Lohardaga, Ranchi and Gumla is reserved for the scheduled tribe (ST). The constituency comprises of Lohardaga (ST), Gumla (ST), Bishunpur (ST), Sisai (ST) and Mandar (ST) assembly segments.

Union minister and sitting MP Sudershan Bhagat seems to be pitched against odds for registering third consecutive win from Lohardaga constituency even as no one have so far won thrice from here in a row.

No leader from this seat have won thrice in a row though the veteran Congress leader Kartik Oraon won here on three occasions in 1967, 1971 and 1980 after a lay off in 1977.

The union minister and sitting MP Sudarshan Bhagat who won in 2009 and 2014 elections claims that he has ensured development in all assembly segments of his constituency. “I am the son of the soil and the people of my land are witness to my achievements,” said Sudarshan Bhagat.

He further said that he did everything to redress the people’s grievance brought to his notice. “I brought big development projects like vital roads, high-level bridges and a bypass road for Gumla town. The union government also agreed to carry out a survey for rail-link to Gumla,” he pointed out while adding that some development projects are presently underway.

The ex-Congress MP from this seat Rameshwar Oraon, whom Bhagat defeated twice in 2009 and 2014 do not agree with the union minister’s claims. “He (Bhagat) has been the worst performing MPs of the BJP in Jharkhand. He never showed himself in his constituency. Even though he laid foundation stones of some development projects, they including the Gumla bypass road still remain unfinished,” Oraon pointed out. Oraon won on a Congress ticket in 2004 but failed to get a ticket this time.

Devaki Devi, a resident of Gumla, agrees with Oraon. “Both the union and the state governments cheated with the people of Jharkhand state. They did not do justice with the poor of the state, failed to provide them with social security. We will definitely vote against the BJP,” she pointed out.

Echoing similar sentiments, Ravindra Kumar Sharma, an advocate said, “No doubt, there are local issues that needed to be attended earnestly but parliamentary elections are all about national issues. We will vote for BJP to ensure national security.”

The Lohardaga MLA and Congress leader Sukhdev Bhagat, the Congress candidate against Bhagat, said, “This is a battle between two ideologies; it’s a fight between the followers of Gandhi and Godse.” He, however, did not make any direct comment on Bhagat’s performance.

Lohardaga seems to be heading towards a direct fight between the BJP candidate Surdarshan Bhagat and the Congress candidate Sukhdev Oraon. The Bishupur MLA Chamra Linda not contesting the election has provided a great relief to the opposition grand alliance. The votes secured by Linda had in 2014 ensured victory for the BJP on this seat by a very thin margin of only 2489 votes defeating Congress candidate.

Lok Sabha election 2019: It’s NDA vs grand alliance in Jharkhand

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 17:10 IST