CM Raghubar Das is not only fighting to retain the state, but also his constituency
Voters in Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur East Assembly constituency will head for polls in the second phase of state elections on December 7. Counting of votes will happen on December 23.
The constituency area covers one of the two parts of Jamshedpur, a planned industrial town. The ‘Steel City’, established by Tata Group’s founder Jamsetji Tata, is known for housing India’s first private and largest iron and steel plant. The town’s economy largely runs on the steel plant and allied activities.
Jamshedpur and surrounding areas, together, form one of the largest populated areas in Jharkhand.
The Jamshedpur East constituency is a key constituency in the ongoing Assembly polls.
Raghubar Das, Jharkhand’s only Chief Minister to complete a tenure, is fighting to retain a seat he has held since the state’s first election in 2005. The 2005 Assembly polls were the state’s first after it was carved out of Bihar in the year 2000. The state’s first Legislative Assembly (between 2000 and 2005) constituted members on the basis of the 2000 Bihar election.
Das, a non-tribal leader of a tribal-dominated state, is leading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s campaign to retain power there.
What makes the battle in the constituency interesting is the opposition that Das is facing.
On November 18, BJP leader Saryu Roy filed his nomination papers to contest against Das as an Independent.
This was a day after Roy quit Das’ Cabinet. He held the Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs portfolios for the last five years.
The decision to contest against Das was in retaliation to the two-time Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the neighbouring Jamshedpur West Assembly constituency being denied ticket to contest from his seat.
The former state minister cited his closeness to Janata Dal (United)’s Nitish Kumar for BJP denying him a ticket. While Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) is BJP’s ally, it is contesting the Jharkhand election separately.
This is for the first time in Jharkhand's history that a leader who served under a chief minister is crossing swords with him in the polls.
Roy vs Das
Roy is credited with exposing scams that led to the convictions of at least three chief ministers -- Lalu Prasad Yadav, Madhu Koda and Jagannath Mishra.
Some of the BJP leaders within the state BJP unit, who have felt side-lined since 2014, are reportedly supporting Roy tacitly.
There are others within the BJP who are supporting Roy openly. Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Subramanian Swamy tweeted in support of Roy, saying, “It is sad that JP’s then young associate and now most prominent and honest Minister of the BJP government in Jharkhand, Saryu Rai has been denied BJP ticket for no good reason. Now he is an independent candidate against the CM in the imminent election for Assembly.”
“Elect clean Saryu Rai and bring him back to BJP and make him CM. BJP in Jharkhand must focus on winning the state. Otherwise after Maharashtra it energise nation’s enemies (sic),” Swamy said in another tweet.
Roy said that he has all the evidence to prove the Das’ involvement in an illegal mining scam. “We have dozens of examples of corruption. I have met (BJP National President) Amit Shah just once. In 2017, when I met PM Modi, I told him that I am ashamed to be in the state cabinet. He told me he will talk to Amit Shah. I told him (Amit Shah) everything,” Roy told NDTV.
The chief minister has refuted these allegations and said that his former Cabinet colleague is indulging in politics of blackmail.
Hitting back over the allegations, BJP’s state unit has challenged Roy to disclose the evidence.
Hence, this is being pegged as essentially a fight between two BJP candidates.
Where do other candidates stand?
While Das is fighting against an internal rebellion of sorts, there is confusion in the opposition camp when it comes to this constituency.
The Indian National Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) are in an alliance. Congress’ has fielded its Spokesperson Gourav Vallabh against the chief minister. Yet, former chief minister Hemant Soren-led JMM has hinted at supporting Roy’s candidature.
“Saryu Roy is an honest leader and he has challenged Chief Minister Raghubar Das, who is the epitome of corruption. We, in the opposition, should come in his support,” a report by NDTV quotes Soren as saying.
Vallabh, a professor at XLRI Jamshedpur, had risen to fame earlier this year after a video of a television debate went viral. In the debate video, Vallabh is seen challenging BJP Spokesperson Sambit Patra.
Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) is openly backing Roy against Das.
The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P), which is not a part of the Congress-JMM alliance, has fielded Abhay Singh who had unsuccessfully contested there in 2014.
Das has held the Jamshedpur East Assembly constituency since 2005. In 2014, Das’ victory margin swelled to over 70,000 votes from what was just under 23,000. In 2005, Das’ victory margin was 19,000 votes.
A JMM candidate had finished as the runner-up in 2014. JV(M)’s Abhay Singh had finished second in 2009 and a Congress candidate in 2005.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to address an election rally in Jamshedpur on December 3. Das would be hoping that PM Modi’s direct campaign would help settle the contest in his favour.LIVE NOW... Video series on How to Double Your Monthly Income... where Rahul Shah, Ex-Swiss Investment Banker and one of India's leading experts on wealth building, reveals his secret strategies for the first time ever. Register here to watch it for FREE.