Soren in full poll mode, says Cong needs to work harder to defeat BJP

Ranchi (IANS) When asked about the BJP’s resounding electoral victory in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the recently concluded Assembly elections, Jharkhand Chief Minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Working President, Hemant Soren, told media persons: “The poll results are according to the hard work any party puts in the elections. Only time will tell the impact of these poll results on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.”

It is evident from Soren’s reaction that he pointed to Congress, one of the main allies of the oppositions in INDIA bloc, that if you want to win the elections, you will have to work harder to defeat the BJP.

Given the current political situation in Jharkhand, the path of winning further elections is not at all easy for INDIA bloc. After a resounding victory in three states of the Hindi belt — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP is buoyed with the victories in the recently concluded Assembly polls which were held in November.

Hemant Soren is aware that now BJP will intensify its political attacks on him. To face this daunting challenge, he has now entered the electoral field single-handedly, without caring much about the other INDIA bloc parties and their allies in Jharkhand.

Citing his busy schedule ahead of the general election in 2024, the Jharkhand Chief Minister had decided to skip the December 6 meeting of INDIA bloc in New Delhi. However, this meeting was postponed due to non-availability of majority of the prominent leaders of the INDIA bloc.

In the last few days, Hemant Soren is continuously touring various districts of his state under the ” ‘Aapki Yojana, Aapki Sarkar, Aapke Dwar’ campaign. Although this is a state government-led campaign, but in the public meetings being held under it, Soren is seen taking on the BJP setting his political agenda.

On one hand, he is highlighting the achievements of the Jharkhand government before the people and on the other hand, he is seen fiercely attacking the BJP and the Central government for its policies. His effort is to not let the political ground gained by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha weaken under any circumstances.

The leaders of Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal — the other two constituent parties apart from JMM which are part of the Jharkhand government — need to worry about the extent to which they are able to manage their political ground ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

After the election results on December 3, Congress leaders and workers in Jharkhand are unhappy. The grand old party had decided two months ago that every week in the State Congress office, four ministers from the Congress quota included in the Hemant government would listen to the problems of the people in the state. This strategy has not been implemented by the party since the last three to four weeks.

There is currently no other noteworthy programme by Congress for connecting with the people taking place at the state level. There is a studded silence within the RJD, an ally of the Jharkhand government, regarding their party’s organisational programmes.

A big challenge for the opposition INDIA bloc in Jharkhand will be regarding the distribution of seats for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The current ruling coalition in the state comprises three parties — Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal.

In the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections held in 2019, these three parties had divided Assembly seats among themselves.

If the INDIA bloc resolves to contest elections together in Jharkhand, then the number of parties under the alliance will increase from three to five or six, which will then affect the seat-sharing arrangement and that could become a very challenging situation.

Nitish Kumar-led JDU and Left parties have no stake in the current ruling coalition government in Jharkhand. At present, JDU has no MLA in the state, while CPI-ML has only one MLA among the Left parties. Within the INDIA bloc, JDU and Left parties will also stake claim on the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats.

There are 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, the distribution of which will be very difficult, to create a unanimous seat-sharing formula among the constituent parties of the INDIA bloc in the state. In the 2019 elections, an alliance of four parties — Congress, JMM, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) and RJD was formed, but there was a huge dispute over the seat-sharing arrangement.

Within the alliance government in Jharkhand, Congress got seven seats, JMM got four, Babulal Marandi’s JVM got two and Rashtriya Janata Dal got one seat. Unity was shown on 13 seats, but Rashtriya Janata Dal was not satisfied with getting just one seat. Therefore, the RJD had fielded its candidates on two seats — Palamu and Chatra.

This time, apart from JMM, Congress and RJD, JDU and Left parties will also stake claim on Lok Sabha seats in the opposition INDIA bloc. Discussions regarding the claim and seat-sharing have also started in the respective meetings of these parties.

This time Congress is contesting on nine Lok Sabha seats, whereas last time, it had contested on seven. The grand old party said that in 2019, under an internal agreement, it had left two seats for Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Democratic). Now Jharkhand Vikas Morcha has quit the opposition INDIA bloc and Babulal Marandi has joined the BJP.

On the other hand, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is preparing to stake claim on five to six seats, whereas last time it had contested on four. RJD is also in a mood to reclaim at least two seats, whereas last time in the alliance it was agreed to give it only one seat. Left parties want at least one seat for themselves.

The Left parties’ want to contest from the Hazaribagh Assembly constituency, from where CPI’s Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Mahto had been elected as an MP in 2004. It is said that CPI’s National General Secretary D. Raja has expressed his desire to contest elections from Hazaribagh in 2024.

The active presence of JDU leaders and the state party committee in recent times is indicating that it will want a Lok Sabha seat for itself within the opposition INDIA alliance in Jharkhand. The JDU wants to contest from the Hazaribagh, Koderma and Giridih seats.

The biggest difference in seat distribution will be between Congress and JMM. Along with the Lok Sabha, Assembly elections are also to be held in Jharkhand in 2024. In such a situation, while deciding any formula for Lok Sabha seats, the distribution of 81 Assembly seats will also be necessarily discussed which will be quite challenging.

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