Ranchi: The BJP raced to its best-ever performance in a Lok Sabha election in the Jharkhand region by winning 12 of 14 seats but saw its clean-sweep ambitions foiled by the victory of old foe Shibu Soren and Vijay Kumar Hansda in Dumka and Rajmahal.
Soren stood tall in Dumka, condemning Babulal Marandi to third place and even improving on his 2009 margin, and reminded the state how crucial he was as the BJP increased its vote share from 27.53 in 2009 to 41 per cent. This, even as his son and chief minister Hemant Soren � already fighting off the perception that his government is on its last legs � fell in stature as a political tactician: his hand-picked candidates in Jamshedpur and Rajmahal lost to former JMM legislators.
Soren secured 335815 votes while his closest rival Sunil Soren got 296785 votes. JVM�s Babu Lal Marandi got 158122 votes. In Rajmahal, JMM�s Vijay Kumar Hansda fetched 300066 votes against his close rival Hemlal Murmu�s 280675. JVM�s Dr Anil Murmu got 85165 votes.
However, the Jharkhand voter reserved the worst for the nine Congress candidates on show. With the exception of Rameshwar Oraon in Lohardaga � who led all through the latter half of the day before conceding to Sudarshan Bhagat of the BJP in the last legs � all Congress candidates lost by more than 60,000 votes, with Ajay Dubey losing to P.N. Singh by 2.79 lakh votes in Dhanbad. At Kodarma, the Congress candidate came away with a mere 19,709 votes.
But, it was all about the BJP. Even as they remained confident of winning up to 12 seats � a feat achieved in 1996 and �98, before the formation of the state � BJP leaders were worried about Giridih and Rajmahal. The former, because they suspected the JMM had managed to activate its Majhi-Musalman-Mahato base; the latter, because they were not sure whether the adivasis would vote for them. Giridih was captured by a margin of 40,313; Rajmahal saw a see-saw battle that eventually left Hemant Soren with egg on his face.
Leaders had said their candidates would barely scrape through in Ranchi and Hazaribagh as other were eating into the BJP�s traditional votes. At the end of the day, Yashwant Sinha�s son Jayant Sinha had a margin of 1.59 lakh votes in Hazaribagh; Ram Tahal Choudhary led by 1.99 lakh votes in Ranchi. Those who were supposedly encroaching on their votes came third in both constituencies with 1.56 and 1.42 lakh votes respectively.
Yet the BJP candidates pulled away with ease. In 2009, Arjun Munda had had the biggest margin in the state, at 1.2 lakhs. There were five margins better than that this time, not counting the fact that Jamshedpur � surrendered to the JVM(P) in 2011 by 1.56 lakh � was re-captured with a margin of 99,876. The BJP�s dominance was complete, frightening.
The BJP, which had won eight seats in 2009 before losing the 2011 Jamshedpur bye-election, managed to retain two of its seats in the Santhal Pargana. On the other hand, it will feel it is still on a slippery slope in the region, crucial to its ambition of forming a state government of its own: Dumka, where Shibu Soren once mobilised the Santhals against the outsiders � now a BJP votebank � remains elusive; Godda and Rajmahal were captured after what resembled a trench battle all day. The party will of course note that it has increased its margin in Godda by about five times this time, to 60,682.
The JVM(P), with 12 per cent, is the third largest party on paper in terms of vote share, but the party will have to go back to the drawing board. Its ambition lay in tatters after Babulal Marandi was eviscerated at Dumka, unable to ensure a Shibu Soren loss even by proxy. The nature of popular former MP Ajay Kumar�s loss in Jamshedpur will raise serious questions about his political future. The party will hope Jharkhand voters will behave differently when asked to choose a state government.
Former chief minister Madhu Kora�s wife Geeta � candidate of the family�s own Jai Bharat Samanta Party � came second in Singhbhum, which means the state will not have a woman LS member for the second term running. Smaller parties continued to give a good account of themselves in the state: CPI-ML Liberation�s Kodarma candidate was on the heels of BJP�s state president Ravindra Kumar Ray all day, eventually conceding by a margin of 24,495 votes. Anosh Ekka of the Jharkhand Party fared well, however his second-placed finish in Khunti is in the shadow of allegations that he was supported by the left wing extremist PLFI.
Two new parties that made a serious bid to enter Jharkhand had to return with poor returns. Chamra Linda of the All India Trinamool Congress, which fielded 10, came third in Lohardaga; the Trinamool�s Chatra candidate came 11th. On the other hand, the Aam Aadmi Party � also with 10 candidates � found that its best performance was a 5th at Jamshedpur. Its Chatra candidate polled the most votes; Dayamani Barla from Khunti came 7th with 11,822 votes.