An epic battle of two former chief ministers is unfolding in the Dumka (ST) seat with sitting MP Shibu Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha looking to fend off the challenge from Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik)'s Babulal Marandi even as a resurgent BJP seeks to turn the tables on both.
BJP has fielded Sunil Soren, a one-time protege of Shibu Soren, to try and prevent an eighth Lok Sabha poll win for the JMM chief here in tomorrow's elections with the presence of Marandi in the fray adding a twist to the plot. While Shibu Soren enjoys considerable support among the people here, Marandi, who was the first chief minister of Jharkhand, is a formidable opponent and would leave no stone unturned to prevent the JMM leader from winning the seat.
Marandi (56), the sitting MP from Kodarma, says, "JMM has cheated the people with its false promises. What I did in three years of my chief ministership, JMM failed to do in 30 years while sharing power at the Centre and in the state." But JMM leaders are confident that Shibu Soren, who has thrice been the chief minister of Jharkhand, will easily secure the seat.
JMM, which is fighting these polls as an ally of the Congress-led UPA, is also relying on Shibu Soren's son and present Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren to win votes here. Hemant Soren has virtually set up camp in the Santhal Pargana region and is canvassing for his father and another party candidate, Vijay Hansda who is contesting the neighbouring Raj Mahal seat.
However, BJP is targeting the Congress-JMM alliance by raising the issues of corruption and price rise and also banking on the perceived wave in favour of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Modi has already campaigned here for his party's candidate Sunil Soren, who is seeking votes on the assurance that BJP will "control price rise, corruption and provide employment opportunities if voted to power".
Sunil Soren was lured away from Shibu Soren by Babulal Marandi, who, however, later left BJP to start the JVM(P) in 2006.
The Dumka Lok Sabha seat comprises six Assembly segments, five of which were clinched by JMM in the 2009 state elections while BJP has a lone MLA here.
Shibu Soren (68), a seven-time MP from Dumka, is wooing the electorate saying he had been at the forefront of the campaign for a separate Jharkhand state and also worked for tribal welfare. "Shibu Soren was instrumental in the creation of Jharkhand. It is because of his efforts that Dumka was accorded the status of a second capital," claims Jharkhand Energy Minister and Congress leader, Rajendra Prasad Singh. Shibu Soren first emerged in electoral politics in Dumka after defeating Congress's Prithvichand Kisku here in 1980.
Although he lost to Kisku in 1984, Shibu Soren snatched the seat back in 1989.
In 1991 and 1996, Shibu Soren got the better of Marandi here when the latter contested as a BJP candidate. But in the general elections of 1998 and 1999 here, Marandi defeated Shibu Soren and his wife Rupi Soren Kisku, respectively.
Thereafter, starting with a by-election in 2002, Shibu Soren has successfully retained the seat so far.