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yashwant sinha kin rumour may make a tough jharkhand seat tougher for bjp

Yashwant Sinha kin rumour may make a tough Jharkhand seat tougher for BJP

WITH 1,371 cases of rioting alone between 2019 and 2023, mostly on religious grounds, the Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seat in Jharkhand is highly polarised – a factor that is believed to have helped the BJP win the last two times here by a substantial margin. However, as the constituency heads for voting on May 20, there is a difference. The BJP has dropped its two-time sitting MP from here, Jayant Sinha. This makes it the first election since 1998 that no family member of Yashwant Sinha, former Union Finance and External Affairs minister under the Vajpayee-led NDA government and most recently the Opposition’s joint presidential candidate, is not contesting from Hazaribagh. On Tuesday, in a twist to the tale, the Congress announced that Jayant’s son and Yaswant Sinha’s grandson Aashir, 22, had “joined” the party. Yashwant Sinha denied this as “absolutely baseless”. “He is not of the age where he can even contest elections. As for joining the Congress, Aashir has done nothing of the sort,” he told The Indian Express. Nevertheless, the BJP’s Manish Jaiswal, who is a Karwal OBC leader, and the sitting MLA from the Hazaribagh Assembly seat, is expected to find the going tough against Congress candidate Jai Prakash Bhai Patel. A leader of the Kurmi sub-community among the Mahatos, Patel is the son of JMM co-founder Tek Lal Mahato. While he was earlier with the JMM, Patel later moved to the BJP and, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, joined the Congress. He resigned as the BJP MLA from Mandu Assembly segment in the Hazaribagh seat to move to the Congress. In 2019, Jayant won from Hazaribagh with 67.4% of the votes, against the Congress’s tally of 23.06%. No one expects Jaiswal to match that performance. The Congress is again fighting in alliance with partners JMM and RJD, while the BJP has the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) as its ally. A BJP leader close to the RSS, who did not want to be named, admitted that the contest in Hazaribagh was tight. “Patel is Kudmi Mahato, an OBC community that has around 2.25 lakh votes in the Hazaribagh seat. They dominate in Ramgarh and Mandu Assembly constituencies. However, Jaiswal has a certain base of his own, having won the Hazaribagh Assembly seat twice.” A BJP leader holding a senior position in the state unit said that compared to the Kudmi Mahatos, the Kayasthas (the community to which the Sinhas belong) number around 75,000 in the constituency. While the Sinhas have denied that Aashir has made any sort of a political move, the leader said: “The perception that it is so may gain ground among voters and give the Congress further advantage. Whoever wins this seat, the margins will not be high.” With caste seemingly not on his side, Jaiswal has been appealing to religious sentiments. In one of his campaign speeches recently, in a message apparently directed at Hindus, he said: “I request you that in this fight, please don’t see your role as that of just a voter, but also that of a motivator. Aap ko nikal kar ke ek-ek vyakti ko samjhaana chahiye ki Bharat desh ke 80 pratishat log ek vichardhara ke hain, aur un 80 pratishat ka matdaan bhi ek dal ko hona chahiye, ek gathbandhan ko hona chahiye (You must get out and make each person understand that 80% of India’s population believes in the same ideology, and the votes of these 80% should also go to the same party, alliance).” Patel has been telling people not to fall for the “dirty politics” of the BJP, and to vote for the Congress. In 2018, before the last general elections, Jayant had courted controversy by welcoming accused released on bail in a lynching case with garlands. Apart from the BJP and Congress candidates, there are 17 more in the fray from the Hazaribagh seat, including those fielded by the CPI, BSP and Jharkhand Party, as well as seven Independents. The CPI is not a part of the INDIA bloc in Jharkhand. While the Congress last won the Hazaribagh seat in 1984, the CPI’s Bhubneshwar Prasad Mehta won twice after that, in 1991 and 2004. In terms of the Assembly segments within the Lok Sabha seat, the honours are more evenly divided. In the 2019 Assembly elections, the Congress won Barhi, Barkagaon and Ramgarh, and the BJP Mandu and Hazaribagh segments. After Congress Ramgarh MLA Mamata Devi was disqualified due to conviction in a case, the AJSU won the seat in a bypoll.

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