Difficult road ahead for Marandi

Difficult road ahead for Marandi

Fifteen years ago, Babulal Marandi stunned everyone when he defeated Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo Shibu Soren from the Dumka Lok Sabha constituency.

Defeating Soren in his impregnable fortress was then considered an unimaginable task. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyee rewarded Marandi by inducting the BJP's fresh tribal face—Marandi was in the saffron party then—into his team as Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest.

The soft-spoken and suave leader climbed the ladder of success to be hand-picked as the first chief minister of Jharkhand in November 2000, when Bihar was bifurcated. But Marandi, still regarded as the man who set the ball rolling for development in the tribal state, soon became embroiled in a domicile row and had to resign in 2003 after the controversy snowballed.

A self-proclaimed RSS man, Marandi subsequently quit the BJP and formed the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM). In the 2009 Assembly election, the JVM got the maximum share of votes (28.24 per cent), but could bag only 11 seats. The BJP, which fetched 24.44 per cent votes, got 18 seats as it had tied up with regional outfits.

No wonder then, that the BJP and the Congress have made sincere efforts to woo Marandi for the 2014 Assembly elections. But since he tried to drive a hard bargain—one of his condition was that he be projected as a chief ministerial candidate—Marandi was left to plough a lonely furrow.

To rub salt into his wounds, the BJP split his party and made seven of his 11 MLAs join the saffron camp. This was a huge blow to the regional leader, who is still regarded as a relatively less corrupt chief minister than others Jharkhand has seen over the past 14 years.

Shaken after former deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi in November quit the JVM, treating it like a sinking ship, Babulal has filed nomination papers from two seats: Giridih and Dhanwar.

His aides, however, insist that he has not taken this step for fear of adverse poll result. But why choose two adjoining constituencies from the same district—Giridih? No one seems to know. Not even Marandi.

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