Can Arjun Munda ensure BJP’s victory in Jharkhand?

By Sushmita Dutta | Last Updated: Nov 21, 2014, 16:12 PM IST

Arjun Munda, the three-time chief minister of Jharkhand, may reckon himself as the front-runner for the CM's post, but Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah's statement that his party would go to polls in the state under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, has opened up the field for other hopefuls.

Munda was the Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly. The state had as many as nine chief ministers after the state was carved out of Bihar in year 2000.

Munda is confident that the state will deliver a decisive mandate given the general sense of disappointment that set in after the fractured mandate in 2009.

And, given the stunning performance of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, when it won 12 out of the 14 seats – Munda has reasons to be hopeful that 'Modi magic' will do the trick again.

However, the BJP is taking no chances and has stitched up a pre-poll alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU).

Born on January 5, 1968 in Jamshedpur, Munda is a graduate from Ranchi University. A tribal leader, Munda began his political career under Shibu Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the 1980s but soon switched sides and joined the BJP.

He has been winning the Kharsawan continuously since 1995.

Munda's big break came when he was inducted into the first BJP government under Babulal Marandi in 2000.

But Munda was set for bigger things, he replaced Babulal Marandi as the CM in March 2003 when the BJP government faced a crisis after some ministers switched sides to the opposition.

Over the years he has emerged as an ethnic leader, who has considerable sway over tribals – they constitute a quarter of the state's population - who are a big swing factor in Jharkhand.

While a controversy over his caste status has been a nagging worry for Munda, he hopes that his track record as a CM would help in his emergence as the natural choice to be CM if the BJP wins the polls.

The BJP appears to be placed well to win back the Ranchi throne given its high-pitched emphasis on keeping growth and development as the central theme of its election campaign.

After all, good performance in Lok Sabha isn't a guarantee of achieving similar results in Assembly polls as well.

Voting for Jharkhand is scheduled to be conducted in five phases starting November 25, 2014.