Jharkhand polls: Will Babulal Marandi emerge as king maker?
He may not hold all the aces, yet no political pundit can write off JVM chief Babulal Marandi — a man known for his uncanny ability to make comebacks in the alliance-based tricky politics of Jharkhand.
Founder of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Marandi blew the poll bugle quite early by deciding to go alone in the upcoming Assembly polls.
Once the face of the BJP, Marandi, is among those who played a vital role in making the BJP grow as a political force in the region. And the irony is that his biggest challenge, this time, comes from the lotus that is has grown in strength under Narendra Modi.
Marandi's political career graph has witnessed several ups and downs. He started out as an RSS pracharak and in 1991 contested LS election against Guruji of Jharkhand, Shibu Soren, on a BJP ticket from Dhumka. He lost.
Not one to lose heart, Marandi contested again against Shibu from the same constituency in 1996, only to face defeat again. However, he managed to reduce the margin to just 5000 votes.
He got the opportunity to avenge his defeat in 1998 and 1999 General elections when Marandi first defeated Soren and then his wife.
The then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rewarded Marandi with a berth in his cabinet.
Riding the wave, Marandi took over as the first chief minister of Jharkhand when the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
Though he made a mark by launching several development oriented projects, impatience from allies, mainly Janata Dal (United), made him resign from the post in 2003. Arjun Munda replaced him as CM, and in a way, took over the mantle as the tallest leader of the BJP in the state.
The divisions grew and after Marandi won the 2004 LS polls when others like Yashwant Sinha lost, he started to openly criticise the state government.
Munda later contested as an Independent candidate in the Koderma LS bypoll and emerging victorious. The victory gave him the confidence to form his own party— the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM).
Disaster struck in 2007 when his younger son Anup was among the 17 killed in a Naxal attack.
Marandi overcome the loss and emerged stronger politically. In 2009 Assembly elections, JVM won 11 out of 25 seats it contested in alliance with the Congress. With the Congress winning just 14 of the 56 seats it contested, Marandi's dream of donning the CM's cap never took off.
However, five years on, Marandi is tasked with a big challenge as the BJP has been steadily gaining ground in the state. What has not helped matters is the exodus of leaders from JVM with seven of the eleven party MLAs having joined the BJP.
"Such things happen in all the parties before elections. There’s nothing to get disappointed. What really disappoints me is the extent BJP, which projected itself as a party with a difference, can stoop to target our party,” said Marandi.
Meanwhile, some reports stated that the JVM chief was keen on joining hands with old ally Congress for 2014 elections, but talks fell through after differences over seat sharing.
Despite the challenges, if Marandi does emerge victorious it will solely be due to his personal charisma.