Ranchi, Sep 10 (IANS): In the first battle between the NDA and 'I.N.D.I.A' in Jharkhand, the opposition alliance has emerged victorious and along with it, the political scoreboard in the state has also seen the rising prominence of the state's Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
In the recent by-election held for the Dumri Assembly constituency in the state, I.N.D.I.A's candidate Bebi Devi of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) has given them new confidence.
Amid opposition attacks, ongoing court cases, confrontations with the Central government on several issues, and action by the ED, Hemant Soren, who has been repeatedly entangled in difficulties, is now full of renewed enthusiasm.
Although Soren is apprehensive that the increasing ED and CBI scrutiny around him might lead to his imprisonment, he wants to raise his profile on the political stage before that happens so that the opposition parties do not gain any advantage from it.
At the time when the results of the Dumri Assembly by-election were announced, Soren was addressing a public gathering in Gua, Chaibasa.
The Chief Minister said: "Ever since our government came to power, conspiracies are being hatched against us. Attempts are being made to send me to jail by misusing constitutional institutions. But until they send me to jail, I will make Jharkhand strong."
Soren knows that as long as the public supports a politician, it doesn't matter whether they are in jail or out. This political lesson has been inherited by him, primarily from his father, Shibu Soren, who has been in jail several times on charges ranging from corruption to murder, but it has had no adverse impact on him or his party, JMM. Every time the BJP leaders attack him by saying that Hemant Soren is prepared to go to jail, he responds emphatically in public gatherings, "Is any Jharkhandi afraid of going to jail?"
Soren is once again on the radar of the ED. Last year, the ED interrogated him for nearly 10 hours in connection with the mining scam.
In its charge sheet, the ED has identified him as a protector of those accused of money laundering through illegal mining. Now, as part of the ongoing investigation into land scams in the state, the ED wants to question him.
The ED has sent him summons three times since August, but instead of appearing before the ED, he has challenged its actions in the Supreme Court, suggesting that the actions are politically motivated.
The ED had sent him a summons to appear on September 9, but he chose to travel to Delhi by a chartered plane to attend the G-20 summit dinner hosted by the President, rather than comply.
Soren's supporters chant a slogan for him - "Hemant hai toh himmat hai!" (If Hemant is here, there is courage!). It is safe to say that I.N.D.I.A's victory in the direct battle between I.N.D.I.A and NDA in Dumri has added to the "courage of Hemant."
The Dumri seat fell vacant following the death of Jagarnath Mahato, who was a minister in Hemant Soren's government. Even before the announcement of the by-election, Soren made a big move by inducting Bebi Devi, the widow of Jagarnath Mahato, into his cabinet without becoming a MLA and declared her as the party's candidate for the Dumri seat.
He had also started extensive development work and welfare schemes for the area. Getting Bebi Devi sworn in as a minister, even before the announcement of the election, was part of his political strategy.
During the election campaign, Soren organised several public meetings and roadshows in the area.
On the other hand, the NDA announced its candidate after the announcement of the by-election.
In the 2019 assembly elections, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Yashoda Devi was the runner-up in this seat. At that time, the BJP also fielded its candidate, who was in the third position.
This time, the AJSU Party and the BJP contested under the NDA alliance's banner. The AJSU Party's Yashoda Devi was declared the NDA candidate.
In 2019, the combined votes of the AJSU Party and BJP candidates were close to 72,000, while the winning JMM candidate Jagarnath Mahato received nearly 71,000 votes. The NDA assumed that this time, the AJSU-BJP's unity would lead to a transfer of the BJP's votes to the AJSU candidate, ensuring her victory.
Soren foiled this strategy of the NDA. In fact, he systematically wooed the minority i.e. Muslim voters to ensure the victory of his party's candidate Bebi Devi.
In 2019, the candidate of Asaduddin Owaisi's party had secured more than 24,000 votes. This time too, Owaisi fielded his candidate, but due to the strategy of Soren, 90 per cent votes of Muslims were transferred to his candidate. Owaisi's candidate got only 3,472 votes this time, which is about 20,000 less than the votes received in 2019.
However, after this victory, Soren's political aggression has intensified. Despite all the controversies, he has continued to score points against his opponents since becoming the Chief Minister after winning the 2019 elections.
After 2019, six assembly seats in the state -- Dumka, Madhupur, Mandar, Ramgarh, Bermo, and Dumri -- witnessed by-elections for various reasons, and the ruling alliance led by Hemant Soren won five of these seats.
It is clear that in the upcoming 2024 elections, whether it's for the Lok Sabha or the assembly, the NDA will face a tough challenge from Hemant Soren's I.N.D.I.A alliance in Jharkhand.