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Jharkhand elections: BJP defending 10 out of 17 seats in phase 3

A few self-proclaimed kingmakers, too, are in the fray in this phase, including former chief minister and JVM founder Babu Lal Marandi and AJSU president Sudesh Mahto. While AJSU has left BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to contest on its own, Marandi has opted out of the JMM-Congress alliance.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 12, 2019, 06.39 AM IST
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PTI
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RANCHI: Ruling BJP may need a strong performance in the 17 assembly constituencies in Jharkhand that go to vote in the third phase of elections on Thursday to hold on to power as it defends 10 seats including some party strongholds.

BJP had won seven out of the 17 seats in 2014, while Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) (JVM) won three each. Congress won two seats and All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) and CPI(ML) won one each. BJP’s tally increased to 10 when six JVM MLAs, including three from phase three constituencies, merged with the ruling party.

A few self-proclaimed kingmakers, too, are in the fray in this phase, including former chief minister and JVM founder Babu Lal Marandi and AJSU president Sudesh Mahto. While AJSU has left BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to contest on its own, Marandi has opted out of the JMM-Congress alliance.

Mahto, who is contesting from Silli, had lost to JMM’s Amit Mahto by 35,000 votes in 2014. The latter’s election was declared invalid in 2016, but the AJSU leader lost the ensuing by-election, too, to Amit Mahto’s wife Seema Devi by 13,000 votes.

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AJSU had won only one seat in 2014 despite being an ally of BJP, but the party claims to be eyeing two to three seats contesting on its own this time. Marandi is contesting from Dhanwar where there is a tight battle between BJP’s Laxman Prasad Singh and sitting CPI(ML) MLA Raj Kumar Yadav.

Senior state minister and four times MLA C P Singh is looking to keep capital Ranchi as a BJP bastion, beating anti-incumbency amidst new political equations.

In Koderma, cabinet minister Neera Yadav is in a contest with Amitabh Kumar of RJD. Shalini Gupta of AJSU is trying to make it a triangular contest.

This round of voting will also seal the fate of a few party hoppers who changed their party after being elected in the last assembly polls. The list includes former Congress MLA Manoj Yadav, who is now contesting from Barhi on BJP ticket, and former JVM MLAs Janki Yadav and Navin Jaiswal, contesting from Barkattha and Hatia as BJP candidates.

The 17 seats going to polls on Thursday cover part of Chhotanagpur region and has a mix population of rural and urban population. OBCs and tribals play a key role in the rural areas while urban areas are mostly caste neutral, observers said. This is one of reasons every party leader campaigned on increasing the OBC reservation in the state.

Out of the 17, eight seats are expected to see a direct fight between BJP and the opposition alliance. In two or three seats, regional parties like AJSU or JVM are in fight with either BJP or the grand alliance. Rest of the seats are headed for a triangular contest.

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