The raja who trounced Jharkhand 'king' swims against current

The raja who trounced Jharkhand 'king' swims against current

Till 2009, if anyone had heard about Tamad, a Maoist-infested place close to Dalma Hills in Jharkhand’s dense jungle, it was because of Indian cricket captain M S Dhoni.

Whenever Dhoni visits Ranchi, he pays obeisance to Goddess Durga at Tamad Mandir, situated nearly 80 km from the state capital.

But five years ago, Tamad kicked up a political storm when the then Jharkhand chief minister and one of the tallest tribal leaders from the state, Shibu Soren, lost a by-election from this reserved constituency to Independent candidate Raja Peter.

Shibu, then a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MP, was supposed to win an Assembly seat to continue as chief minister. But despite  Jharkhand Mukti Morcha being in power and Shibu at the helm, Raja stunned all political pundits when he trounced the senior Soren. As a consequence, Shibu had to quit, and his government collapsed.

Raja Peter, till then a non-entity in Jharkhand politics, became a known entity. The ruling party in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United), was then quick to “adopt” Raja as its member.
When Arjun Munda formed a government  led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) later, Raja was made the excise and prohibition minister from the Janata Dal (United)  quota, and was given additional charge of disaster management department.

Sensing the wind of change, Raja crossed over to the BJP in August this year, but was denied ticket from Tamad by the saffron camp at the last moment due to seat adjustment with the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU). (The BJP, All Jharkhand Students Indian Union, and the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party have an alliance in Jharkhand for the 2014 Assembly elections)

Frustrated over his miscalculation, the two-term MLA is now fighting as an Independent and is appealing to voters to salvage his image and prestige. Raja would have sailed through, but AJSU candidate Vikas Munda, son of former minister Ramesh Munda, has the backing of the BJP, which in turn has diverted “Modi wave” in his favour.

The Congress has fielded Prakash Oraon, former officer on special duty to the Jharkhand governor. A division of “secular” votes is giving sleepless nights to Raja who finds himself batting on a sticky wicket.

“Don’t worry about Tamad which goes to the polls on December 2. Raja Saheb can again surprise everyone as he had emerged triumphant even as an independent nearly five years back,” one of his key aides, Pankaj Kumar, told Deccan Herald.

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