Polling in Lohardaga, Khunti, Singhbhum and Palamu today

| | Ranchi
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Polling in Lohardaga, Khunti, Singhbhum and Palamu today

Monday, 13 May 2024 | Roshan Kumar | Ranchi

The stage is set for first phase of polling in Jharkhand. The three scheduled tribe (ST) reserve Lok Sabha seats – Khunti, Singhbhum and Lohardaga  and one scheduled caste (SC) reserve seat Palamu– are going to polls on May 13 (Monday) is likely to witness tough contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the INDIA bloc even though some independents in the fray are making an impact in the electoral dynamics.

While the BJP had won Palamu, Khunti and Lohardaga in 2019, Singhbhum was won by Congress. In 2019, the BJP won 11 constituencies in the state and its ally, the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), won one seat, and the remaining two – Singhbhum and Rajmahal in Santhal Parganas – were won by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led alliance.

Campaigning for the four Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand — Singhbhum, Khunti, Lohardaga and Palamu — ended on Saturday.

In the fourth phase of LS elections scheduled for May 13, which marks the first round of polls in the state, a total of 45 candidates are contesting, with 15 from Lohardaga, 14 from Singhbhum, 9 from Palamu, and 7 from Khunti.

Over 64.37 lakh electors, including 32.07 lakh female voters, are eligible to vote in these constituencies, an election official said. As the campaigning ended on Saturday, leaders from both the camp exerted force to win the confidence of voters.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rally in Chatra, despite the constituency going to polls on May 20. On May 3, he conducted a roadshow in Ranchi and addressed rallies in Singhbhum and Gumla’s Sisai on May 4. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and chief ministers from BJP-ruled states also campaigned for the party’s candidates.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was slated to address a rally in Khunti in support of party candidate Arjun Munda, but couldn’t due to bad weather. Sarma addressed the people via phone, urging them to vote for Munda.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi held rallies in Singhbhum and Gumla’s Basia on May 7 to support INDIA bloc candidates. Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren and Kalpana Soren, wife of jailed former Chief Minister Hemant Soren, also campaigned extensively for INDIA bloc candidates.

In Singhbhum, BJP’s Geeta Kora, who had won the seat on Congress ticket in 2019, has locked horns with INDIA bloc’s Joba Manjhi, who is a JMM MLA from Manoharpur assembly seat.

Khunti is heading for a direct fight between Union Minister and BJP nominee Arjun Munda and INDIA bloc’s Kalicharan Munda. The Union Minister had defeated Kalicharan in a close contest by a margin of 1,445 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The Lohardaga seat might see a triangular contest after JMM’s Bishunpur MLA Chamra Linda filed nomination as an independent candidate against BJP’s Samri Oraon and INDIA bloc’s Sukhdeo Bhagat. The Lohardaga seat went to Congress party as per the seat-sharing agreement in the JMM-led ruling alliance.

However, the BJP’s margin of victory in the tribal reserved seats was much smaller, with the saffron party winning Khunti and Lohardaga by razor-thin margins of 1,445 and 10,363 votes respectively. The Congress had defeated the BJP in Singhbhum by 72,155 votes.

The Palamu seat is set for a direct fight between the BJP’s sitting MP Vishnu Dayal Ram and RJD’s Mamta Bhuiyan as INDIA bloc candidate.

Of the 45 candidates, 13 have declared criminal cases against them in their affidavits while filing nomination papers.

Top leaders of both the National Democratic Alliance and the Opposition Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, have campaigned in these four constituencies, which are spread across 10 districts and 23 Assembly segments. Most of the contests are direct fights between the BJP’s nominees and the unity candidates put up by the parties of the INDIA bloc.

Khunti made headlines in 2017 with the Pathalgadi movement. And one of the faces of the movement, Babita Kachhap, is fighting as an independent. Besides Kachhap, Aparna Hans of Jharkhand Party, led by former Kolebira MLA and minister Enos Ekka, is also in the fray.

In Singhbhum, sitting MP Geeta Kora, wife of former chief minister Madhu Kora, who won in 2019, is contesting on a BJP ticket this time. She is pitted against Joba Majhi, a five-term legislator of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) from Manoharpur and a former minister in the cabinet of former Jhakhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren.

The only member of the Lok Sabha Congress from Jharkhand and one of the five working presidents of his state unit had defected to the BJP in February this year.

Singhbhum Lok Sabha has six assembly segments and all of them fall under the ruling JMM-Congress alliance. The seat has traditionally seen a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP. However, since 2009, when Madhu won the Singhbhum Lok Sabha as an independent, the Kora family has been a major force in the constituency dominated by the Ho tribal community.

Moreover, the identity of the sub-group of the Ho tribe by Koras among the Congress supporters is a major talking point in the constituency. According to the political workers of various parties, the Ho community constitutes about ’60-70 percent’ of the population in Singhbhum and is therefore mainly represented by Ho community members in Parliament.

Majhi is a Santhal, the most dominant tribal subgroup in the state. Chief Minister Champai Soren, who represents the Saraikea Assembly, is also a Santhal. However, his cabinet colleague Deepak Birua belongs to the Ho community and plays the most important role in supporting Majhi in the fight against Kora.

The Lohardaga Lok Sabha seat was in a tight battle in the last two elections and with JMM strongman and three-term legislator Chamra Linda in the fray, the battle has become triangular.

Lohardaga Lok Sabha comprises five assembly seats and all five are held by Congress and JMM legislators. The Congress has fielded former state unit chief Sukhdeo Bhagat, who lost to BJP’s Sudarshan Bhagat by just over 10,000 votes in 2019. While Sudershan was dropped this time, the BJP has given a ticket to national Scheduled Tribes chapter president Samir Oraon, a Rajya. Sabha member.

While locals feel that Linda’s entry is an advantage for the BJP, Congress supporters deny that Linda would make their fortune.

“His politics is based on his aggressive demand of Sarna code in the Census for the tribals. He is also well connected through his social initiative to promote youth clubs in the villages. In 2009, he had pushed Congress’s Rameshwar Oraon to third place and collected 1.18 lakh votes, and in 2014, he got around 96,000 votes when he contested on a TMC (Trinamool Congress) ticket. BJP’s fortunes would depend on its performance,” said Binod Singh, a resident of Lohardaga.

The Sarna Code is a proposed separate religious code for tribal communities in India who follow Sarna or nature worship.

4D cameras to monitor voting

Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Dr. Neha Arora said that the departure of polling party and security forces is being continuously monitored through GPS and app. Election personnel have been sent to many polling stations through helidropping. Among them, maximum heli-dropping has been done at 126 polling stations in Singhbhum parliamentary constituency. Whereas, polling personnel have been transported through helidropping to 27 polling stations of Lohardaga parliamentary constituency and 8 polling stations of Palamu. He said that a total of 30,380 polling personnel have been deployed for polling.

Chief Electoral Officer K. Ravi Kumar has said that all the polling stations of 10-Singhbhum, 11-Khunti, 13 Palamu and 12-Lohardaga organized in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections 2024 will be monitored with two 4D cameras inside and outside. Webcasting of all these cameras is being done at the District Election Officer level, Headquarters level and Election Commission of India level. He was inspecting the webcasting room set up at the state headquarters level on Sunday.

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