Opposition unity helps JMM retain Silli, Gomia in Jharkhand bypolls
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) rode on a wave of opposition unity to retain the Silli and Gormia assembly seats in the recently held bypolls, the results of which were declared on Thursday. The development is expected to boost efforts to form a joint front against the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
JMM candidate Seema Mahto defeated a local heavyweight, All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) president Sudesh Mahto, by 13,500 votes in Silli. The JMM’s Babita Mahto also managed to defeat AJSU candidate Lambodar Mahto in Gomia, albeit with a narrower margin of 1,344 votes, even as the BJP’s Madhavlal Singh emerged a distant third in the triangular contest.
The foundation of opposition unity in the state was laid ahead of the biennial Rajya Sabha elections in March, when the JMM extended its support to Congress candidate Dhiraj Sahu despite having thrice the number of legislators in the Jharkhand assembly. The Babulal Marandi-led JVM(P) had also extended its support to Sahu back then. The Congress reciprocated by announcing that the alliance will continue into future elections, under the leadership of JMM working president Hemant Soren.
The BJP rode the Modi wave in the 2014 general elections to garner a vote share of 40.71% in the state, winning 12 of its 14 Lok Sabha seats. All the major opposition parties, including the Congress, JMM, JVM(P), RJD, BSP, CPI and the CPI-ML, managed to garner a combined count of only 39.05% votes.
The bypolls in Silli and Gomia were necessitated by the conviction of sitting JMM legislators Amit Mahto and Yogendra Mahto in separate criminal cases earlier this year. The JMM fielded the wives of the disqualified MLAs, Seema Mahto from Silli and Babita Mahto from Gomia, to counter the BJP-AJSU challenge.
All the opposition parties – including the Congress, JVM(P), RJD and Left parties – extended their support to the JMM candidates in Silli and Gomia. The BJP, for its part, backed Sudesh in Silli – making it a direct contest between the AJSU chief and JMM candidate Seema – but fielded three-time legislator Madhavlal Singh from Gomia against its ally’s wishes. This turned the bypoll into a triangular contest, resulting in the AJSU candidate losing by a mere 1,344 votes.
While Soren described the bypoll victories as “the defeat of BJP’s arrogance in favour of a better future”, Jharkhand BJP general secretary Deepak Prakash downplayed the issue. “There is nothing to worry about. The BJP has lost bypolls in the past, but emerged victorious in regular elections,” he said.
However, AJSU spokesperson Dev Sharan Bhagat admitted that their electoral loss warranted some introspection. “We may have lost, but our vote share has increased,” he said.
Bypolls to four Lok Sabha seats and 10 assembly constituencies were held on Thursday.