NEW DELHI: The Sudesh Mahto-headed All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), whose alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party has almost collapsed, has become a favourite destination for the disgruntled leaders of other parties in Jharkhand, who are making a beeline to the regional party in the hope of tickets. Jharkhand is going for Assembly elections in five phases between 30 November and 20 December for 81 seats.
While former state Congress president and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Balmuchu has joined AJSU to contest from the Ghatshila constituency, a sitting BJP MLA and party’s Chief Whip, Radha Krishna Kishore, has dumped the BJP and filed his nomination from the Chhatarpur constituency on an AJSU ticket. Kishore has also been a Minister in the past. Both were unhappy with their respective party leaderships for not giving tickets to them. Balmuchu had headed the state Congress unit for about nine years and completed full Rajya Sabha term from Jharkahnd.
A former Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA Akil Akhtar has also decided to quit the party and join AJSU to contest elections from Pakur. Similarly, two BJP leaders, Sabi Devi and Arti Kujur are also in touch with Sudesh Mahto for contesting elections on AJSU ticket. Sabhi Devi is the widow of Tileshwar Sahu, a former state pollution control board chairman. Sahu was murdered in 2014.
The AJSU, which was in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fold till now, has “almost broken” the alliance with the BJP and is announcing candidates on its own, sending the ruling party in a tizzy, though there has not been a formal announcement of breaking of their ties. The AJSU has been the oldest ally of BJP in Jharkhand and has never contested separately since formation of the state in 2000.
The AJSU had contested on eight seats in the 2014 Assembly elections and won five, but this time, the party demanded 14 seats. Subsequently, Sudesh Mahto was called for a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah in the national capital. The BJP, sources said, offered to give 12 seats to AJSU. Despite that, the seat sharing formula could not be agreed upon finally and the two parties started releasing the list of candidates on their own.
The BJP has so far released the names of 71 candidates, while the AJSU has announced 23 candidates and plans to field more. So far, there are six constituencies where both BJP and AJSU are in fight. They are Lohardagga, Chandankyari, Chakradharpur, Chhatarpur, Sindri, Mandu, Simaria, Mandar, Potka, Ichagarh, Majhgaon, Hatia and Ghatshila. In Hussainabad, the AJSU is in fight against a BJP supported Independent candidate. Interestingly, state BJP president Laxman Gilua is contesting from Chakradharpur, where AJSU, too, has fielded its candidate. The BJP is yet to announce its candidate for 12 seats, including Jamshedpur West, currently held by a senior leader and Minister Saryu Roy.
Other than AJSU, other parties like Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which shares power with the BJP in neighbouring Bihar and also at the Centre, have also fielded candidates against BJP candidates. Thus, the BJP is fighting for its survival in the state with none of the allies coming to its rescue.
While BJP’s ally LJP has decided to field as many as 50 candidates, the JDU says it will field candidates from all the 81 constituencies. This, according to sources, has worried the state BJP leadership. “Though JDU and LJP do not have much ground in Jharkhand, this has gone against the BJP at the “perception level”. In terms of votes also, the BJP may suffer because these two parties, even if they get a few thousand votes, may affect the overall results,” a source said. However, the BJP feels that votes of JDU and LJP will, in fact, divide the Opposition votes and thus, will help the BJP ultimately.
While the BJP is going alone, the JMM, Congress and RJD have finalised their seat-sharing and as per the deal, JMM is contesting on 43, Congress on 31 and RJD on seven seats. The alliance has decided to project Hemant Soren as the chief ministerial candidate.