With corruption and price rise as core issues, a total of 25,41,042 voters in Jharkhand are deciding the fate of 11 constituencies in the third phase of assembly polls on Tuesday.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi, who is contesting on a Congress ticket from Dumka, ex-ministers Nalin Soren (JMM) and Ravindra Rai (BJP) are among the prominent candidates in fray.
Of the 11 constituencies, fours seats of Dumka, Sikaripura, Jama and Jarmundi were scheduled to vote in the first phase but, due to certain administrative reasons, they are voting in the third phase of election. Four seats fall under the Dumka parliamentary constituency won by JMM chief Shibu Soren- of these, JMM had won Sikaripura and Dumka in the 2005 assembly polls. But now, Stephen Marandi has joined Congress and is giving a tough fight to Soren’s son.
The other seven seats fall under four parliamentary seats of Hazaribagh, Giridih, Koderma and Dhanbad. And of these, barring Koderma won by Babulal Marandi this May, three were won by the BJP which had won as many as three assembly seats of Bermo (Koderma), Dhanwar and Jamua in 2005.
Although the BJP seems be dominating this phase, Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) is likely to help Congress increase its overall tally as he is an MP from Koderma and had once defeated the JMM chief from Dumka. He, along with Stephen Marandi, is giving a tough fight to JMM and BJP/JD-U in this phase.
Since Congress won Hazaribagh in 2005 assembly polls, it is not leaving any stone unturned in retaining it. But we can not forget that BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha, who represents Hazaribagh parliamentary seat in Lok Sabha, is trying hard to make a show of his strength this election.
Besides, one can not avoid mentioning the two constituencies of Bagodar and Jarmundi, which were won by Vinod Kumar Singh of CPI-ML(L) and Harinarayan Ray (Independent) respectively. Ray was a minister in the Koda government and is presently in judicial custody. However, the Bagodar seat has been CPI-ML(L) bastion as it was represented continuously since 1990 by the late Mahendra Singh, who was shot dead by Naxalites.
Congress’ Md Izrail Ansari, who had won Bokaro seat in 2005, is once again fighting as the Muslim face of the GOP to retain this seat. In Chandankyari, JMM has given ticket to Santosh Rajwar as Haru Rajwar, who had won from here on JMM ticket in 2005, has shifted to JD-U.
Out of the total 237 candidates, including 115 Independents in this phase, maximum number of aspirants are contesting from Bokaro (45) while 10 are vying for Dhanwar.
Prominent Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Virbhadra Singh, Digvijay Singh, Ajay Maken and Subodhkant Sahay have campaigned hard for the party candidates while BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitely and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar threw their weight behind the BJP/JD-U nominees.
BJP leaders have lambasted the Congress for its "thirst" of power and for making the state a laboratory for its political experiments. JMM chief Shibu Soren, who had only 17 MLAs in 2005, has gone on to target all parties and asked Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan to concentrate on Bihar politics rather than on Jharkhand.