Covering almost seven parliamentary constituencies of Jharkhand, the first phase of assembly polls was earlier scheduled to take place on 30 seats, but the Election Commission has postponed the poll process in four constituencies and hence only 26 seats are witnessing polling on Wednesday.
All the four constituencies, Sikaripara (ST), Dumka (ST), Jama (ST) and Jarmundi, falling under Dumka district, would now have go to polls along with the third phase on December 8.
Of the 1.8 crore eligible voters in the state, a total of 11,42,150 electorate will decide the fate of 26 seats. In the first phase, the JMM has fielded 25 candidates, the Congress 18, the JVM-P 10, the BJP 22, the JDU 3, the RJD 22, the CPI (M) six, the CPI one and the CPI (ML-Liberation) four.
If we look at the strengths & weaknesses of different political parties according to their past performances, it would be easy to analyse their political edge- if any- in this assembly election which has hardly been swayed by any party’s wave.
Out of the 26 seats in 2005 assembly polls from the constituencies undergoing poll process today, BJP had won maximum 12, followed by JMM (7), Congress(4)- if we include Stephen Marandi, JD-U and Independents (two each)- while RJD and AIFB had bagged one seat each. And if we compare it with the performance of major political parties in the Lok Sabha elections, we see that the first phase, covering about seven parliamentary seats of Rajmahal, Dumka, Godda, Giridih, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur and Ranchi are dominated by the BJP as it won five seats while Congress and JMM had won one each.
However, much has changed since the last assembly polls and the results of the recently held general elections cannot be exactly replicated. Therefore we can see that, barring Dumka, which had been dominated by JMM, Congress, after including Stephen Marandi, has made a dent in JMM fief.
Besides, after having an alliance with Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha Prajatantrik (JVM-P) the Congress appears confident in further extending its base in the districts of Godda, Giridih, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. Since Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai represents Ranchi seat in Lok Sabha, the party is quite confident of winning all the seats from there.
If we look at BJP-JD(U)’s prospects in the first phase, the alliance is full of hope as their leaders are vociferously citing the corrption and development related issues along with not having a stable government because of the Congress-led UPA at Centre. Besides, the Madu Koda case has given them enough ammo to corner Congress, JMM and RJD- these parties supported his government and therefore can be said to have allowed him to plunder and loot people’s money, if ED is to be believed.
On the other hand, JMM is once again wooing people in the name of ‘fear’, ‘hunger’ and ‘corruption’ to "save Jharkhand from being looted". Since it had won only seven seats in 2005, it has resorted to an aggressive campaign in the name of ‘Jharkandi Ashmita’(Jahrakhand pride) to increase it tally.
The success of other parties like RJD-LJP, Left factions and Independents would depend on individual performances of candidates and that too only in pockets of about five-six seats.
Interestingly, of the total of 470 candidates in fray for the first phase of elections, 212 are Independents. Six former Maoist rebels have decided to shun violence and join the political mainstream by contesting elections. Four rebels have got the tickets from JMM and one each from RJD and the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). Of these six rebels, three are contesting from jail while the rest are out on bail.
The analysis done by a voluntary organisation, National Election Watch (NEW), has come to a conclusion that as many as 108 candidates (35.76%) with self-declared pending criminal charges are contesting in first phase. Of these, 48 (15.89%) have kidnapping, murder, attempt to murder and dacoity charges against them. All the major parties have given tickets to such candidate e.g., JMM-19, Congress-11, BJP-9, RJD-7 and AITC-9.
Besides, the NEW has also analysed asset records and has concluded that of the 302 candidates contesting elections, 27 have declared that their assets are more than a crore. Therefore, about 8.94 % of them are crorepatis.
Although the parties debate a lot on women’s reservation in Parliament, the NEW has found that only 19 women candidates (6.2%) are contesting in the first phase; Congress has fielded only two while BJP and AITC have put up one each.