Jharkhand chief minister toils hard to get into assembly

December 30th, 2008 - 11:03 am ICT by IANS  

Ranchi, Dec 30 (IANS) A sitting chief minister contesting a by-election to get into the state assembly usually has a cakewalk. Not so Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren, who is having to fight every inch to win the Jan 5 by-poll at Tamar.”Soren is an outsider,” says his principal rival, Basundhara Munda of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the joint candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Her husband and last legislator from Tamar, Ramesh Singh Munda (also JD-U), was killed by Maoist rebels in July this year.

“Shibu Soren will forget the people after getting elected to the state assembly,” Basundhara is telling the voters. “I am the daughter-in-law of the area and I have to stay here. I can share the people’s problems as I stay here.”

She is confident that she will win on the strength of the sympathy vote, the campaign rally that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar participated in on her behalf, and on the fact that the seat is considered a JD-U stronghold.

Shibu Soren, who has a deadline of Feb 27 by which he has to be elected to the assembly, has been telling voters: “As chief minister, I will change the face of the area in a short span of one year”.

Despite that, he has realized that it is not going to be a cakewalk for him, and he is visiting the area every day, a rarity in a by-poll.

Soren, head of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), is the joint candidate of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). But even his major UPA partner, the Congress party, admits he is not on a strong wicket.

Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, president of the Congress’ state unit, said: “It is not a JMM stronghold. There is no JMM cadre in the area.”

For Soren, the pitch has been further queered by the entry of Raja Peter as candidate from the Jharkhand Party. It has effectively turned the electoral fight triangular, said Balmuchu.

The chief minister was apparently so incensed by Peter’s candidacy that he sacked the Jharkhand Party chief - Rural Development minister Enos Ekka - from his cabinet. The official reason was an inquiry started by the state’s vigilance department against Ekka in a case of allegedly holding assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

The NDA has complained to the Election Commission that Soren is violating the model code of conduct “by using his official status to influence voters and is taking help of Maoist rebels”.

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