The battle of ballots at Dumka has warmed up considerably after former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi threw his hat into the electoral ring to take on seven-time MP and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supremo Shibu Soren in one of the most keenly anticipated fights in the state.
Four-term MP and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) chief Marandi had defeated Soren from this constituency in 1998 and his wife Rupi Soren in 1999, contesting as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in undivided Bihar.
His decision to take on Soren once again from his pocket borough after a gap of 15 years has changed the political landscape of Dumka, currently represented by Soren. As both leaders are prominent faces from Jharkhand in national and state politics, voters now have a tough choice to make between the two revered “Santhals”.
Sensing the gravity of the situation, the JMM has now intensified mobilisation of its voters in Dumka. Hemant Soren, chief minister of the state and the JMM chief's son, has instructed his MLAs from the constituency to increase leads in their respective Assembly segments to check any possibility of Marandi’s resurrection.
“We are ready for elections in all respect. Marandi is not at all a factor in Dumka. It will be a fight between him and the BJP candidate here,” JMM leader Suprio Bhattacharya told Deccan Herald, expressing confidence that Soren would be re-elected from the seat.
The BJP has re-nominated nominated Sunil Soren from Dumka, even though he had lost to the JMM chief in the last Lok Sabha elections.
Though the JMM is confident of Soren’s victory from the seat, it may not be a cakewalk for the “dishom guru” this time. Marandi had defeated Soren by over 12,000 votes in 1998, cornering 47 per cent of the total votes polled.
The JMM currently dominates the Dumka constituency as five out of its six Assembly segments are with it.
The results of the last Assembly polls, however, indicate that the JMM's performance was good only in Jama and Jamtara Assembly seats in Dumka, where party candidates won by a high margin.
Reserved parliamentary seat of Dumka consist of 40 per cent voters from tribal communities, another 40 per cent from the traders’ communities, including other backward classes, and 20 per cent Muslims.