Jharkhand byelections: Ruling coalition retains both seats defeating BJP candidates

Published : November 10, 2020 19:56 IST

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supporters in an election rally for the party's candidate, Basant Soren, in Dumka on October 30. Photo: PTI

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Indian National Congress emerged winners defeating Bharatiya Janata Party candidates decisively in a close fight in the byelections to the Dumka and Bermo Assembly seats in Jharkhand.

Congress’ Kumar Jaimangal (Anup Singh) won by a comfortable 14,225 votes against the BJP’s Yogeshwar Mahto “Batul” in Bermo. Jaimangal got 49.36 per cent of the votes polled against Batul’s 41.89 per cent. In Dumka, Basant Soren of the JMM defeated Lois Marandi of the BJP.

Counting began at 8 in the morning and was expected to be over by 3 p.m. But it was not until 7 p.m. that results were declared on both the seats. Votes were counted in 18 rounds in Dumka and 17 rounds in Bermo in Bokaro district. The fate of 12 candidates in Dumka and 16 in Bermo was at stake. Around 63,261 voters in Dumka and 80,038 in Bermo exercised their franchise in the byelections using electronic voting machines (EVMs) despite the raging pandemic.

Early trends showed the BJP leading in both the Dumka and Bermo seats as per Election Commission of India (ECI) website. By midday, however, the Congress gained lead in one of the seats and by evening, the JMM took a decisive lead in the other.

At 1 p.m., Lois Marandi of the BJP was leading over her nearest rival Basant Soren of the JMM in Dumka by 1,234 votes, according to the ECI. But in the final tally, she lost by 6,842 votes.

The byelections turned out to be a direct contest between the BJP and JMM-Congress alliance. The fight in Dumka was primarily between Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s younger brother Basant Soren of the JMM and former Cabinet Minister Lois Marandi of the BJP. While Dumka is traditionally a JMM stronghold, with the looming presence of Jharkhand’s patriarch Shibu Soren, the BJP has also won it in the past. In the 2019 Assembly elections, Hemant Soren defeated the then Minister Louis Marandi. Marandi had defeated Hemant Soren when he was the sitting Chief Minister in 2014. Byelection to the constituency was necessitated after Hemant Soren registered victory from two seats. He vacated the Dumka Assembly seat and retained the Barhait seat.

The Bermo seat fell vacant after Rajendra Prasad Singh, the MLA here, died of illness in May. The fight in Bermo was also expected to be a direct contest between Kumar Jaimangal of the Congress, the son of Rajendra Prasad Singh, and Yogeshwar Mahato of the BJP.

Despite losing both the seats, the BJP has emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly with a vote share of 43.2 per cent. The JMM garnered a vote share of 22.65 per cent while the Congress got 26.44 per cent.

In the absence of any central leadership from the Congress or the BJP making its presence felt in the State, campaigning for the two seats was carried out by local leaders. The BJP received a shot in the arm after the Sudesh Mahto-led All Jharkhand’s Students Union Party (AJSU) extended its support. An old ally of the BJP in Jharkhand, the AJSU has rejoined the National Democratic Alliance, after it parted ways with it in the previous elections to go solo.

While byelections are an important litmus test on the mood of the public, only time will tell whether these elections have any significant impact on the status quo of the 10-month-old government. For now, the ruling JMM-Congress-RJD combine are buoyed by the win and comfortably placed in the 81-member Assembly, feel political analysts.