Jamshedpur: JVM�s sitting MP Ajoy Kumar, who had emerged a victor vanquishing the then BJP State president Dineshanand Goswami in the 2011 by-election, should be a worried man this time.
The reason being that Kurmis hold the sway in the constituency and the BJP has picked by a strong leader and Behragora MLA Vidyut Baran Mahato to regain the prestigious seat won by former Chief Minister Arjun Munda by a record margin in 2009 parliamentary elections.
Incidentally, Mahato, who has switched loyalty from the JMM to the BJP, happens to be the only Kurmi candidate among the 15 nominees, who have joined the fray in the coming Jamshedpur Lok Sabha election to be held on April 17.
No wonder, the leading candidates in the poll battle – JVM�s Ajoy Kumar, BJP�s Vidyut Baran Mahato and JMM�s Niroop Mahanty – are taking every possible step to woo Kurmi voters most of whom hail from the four rural segments � Jugsalai, Potka, Behragora and Ghatshila – of the prestigious constituency.
The candidates in fray are concentrating maximum time in the rural pockets for holding sway among the Kurmi population. Kurmis constitute over 2.5 lakh of the 16 lakh voters in the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat.
Jugsalai and Behragora assembly constituencies have the largest concentration of Kurmi votes.
The BJP had successfully drawn Kurmi voters into its fold following the tainted yet influential Kurmi leader Shailendra Mahato joining the party in the mid-nineties
Moreover, the Kurmis are also spread in large numbers in villages dotting either side of the NH 33 (till Chakulia), which is known for active BJP workers.
This was the prime reason why the saffron party decided to field Vidyut Baran Mahato, who enjoys good rapport amongst the kurmi voters but his sudden shift to saffron brigade might also make his sail tough this time.
�Vidyut jee is a well-known leader not only in the rural belt but in the urban areas too. We are receiving support from all sections of the society. Coupled with Modi wave we are confident to register overwhelming victory,� said Anil Modi, district BJP spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the JMM is relying on its traditional voters along with sympathy votes which Sabita Mahato, widow of Sudhir Mahato, senior JMM leader who was a respected figure in the Kurmi community, could garner once she joins the campaign trail in favour of Mahanty.
JMM which has the traditional backing of the Kurmi community is also pinning hopes on clean image of Niroop Mahanty, who was the former vice president of Tata Steel.
Though elders in the community agree that Kurmis are dominant in the state�s politics, they bemoan the fact that the community lacks unity. That, they feel, is the reason for why Kurmis do not have a proportionate representation in the Parliament or the State Assembly.
�BJP is playing caste politics in Jamshedpur. But we are of the opinion that Niroop Mahanty is a better candidate than any of his rivals. In many districts dominated by the Kurmis, the leaders failed to reap the political advantage. We are confident that to ensure our party�s candidate,� said Ramesh Hansda, a JMM leader.
The JMM candidate�s apprehension is based on his rival�s presence in the four rural Assembly segments — Ghatshila, Potka, Beharagora and Jugsalai. To keep Mahato�s influence at bay and to check vote splitting, the JMM has deputed all senior leaders to campaign in the rural belt.
The JVM candidate will look to win support through his work as an MP in a limited time of over two years.
�Ajoy jee has proved his mettle in his short tenure as the MP. People love him and he is not only a leader but a visionary too. He will register easy win,� said CH Rammurthy, an aide to the JVM candidate.