The Khunti parliamentary constituency has had a memorable past. This was where the brave Birsa Munda carried out his struggle. He was born in Khunti.
It was here that he started his rebellion against the British. People of Jharkhand consider him to be a god. The people of Jharkhand are proud of a number of leaders connected to the grassroots, who have won from this parliamentary constituency.
Chief among them are Jaipal Singh Munda and N. E. Horo. Jaipal Singh Munda is well-known not only for his long struggle demanding a separate statehood for Jharkhand but also for his achievements in the politics as well as sports. He was a good hockey player and under his stewardship, the Indian team had struck gold for the first time at the Olympics.
While fighting at the grassroots, Jaipal Singh Munda was victorious from 1951 to 1962 in the Lok Sabha elections as a Congress candidate, N. E. Horo won the Lok Sabha elections from the same constituency on the Jharkhand Party ticket in 1967 and 1971. N. E. Horo was also the opposition candidate for the position of Vice President in 1974.
He had played an active part in the movement that protested against the Koel Karo Dam Project. He had led the movement for a number of years. In 1977, BJP’s Kedia Munda won the elections here. In 1980, he was defeated by N. E. Horo of the Jharkhand Party. In 1984, Simon Tigga of the Congress was victorious.
Thereafter, BJP’s Kedia Munda won the parliamentary elections from 1989 to 1999. He has also been the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. In 2004, Sushila Kerketta emerged victorious. In the last parliamentary elections, BJP’s Kedia Munda was triumphant. Thus, the Khunti parliamentary constituency is considered a BJP stronghold. BJP’s Kedia Munda has also been the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and he occupies the tribal mental space.
The Khunti parliamentary constituency includes Khunti, Torpa, Saraikela-Kharsava, Tamad, Bundu, Kolebira and Simdega. This is a region where scheduled tribes dominate.
Looking at the illustrious winners from this parliamentary constituency, the candidates in the elections today are a different lot. Except the Jharkhand Party in the Simdega region and the BJP’s influence in the entire constituency, no other party has a strong mandate here. But a number of people connected with the grassroots movements are contesting the elections either on some party ticket or as independents.
This time around, there are fourteen candidates from the Khunti parliamentary constituency. The candidates include Dayamani Barla from the Aam Aadmi Party, Kedia Munda from the BJP, Kalicharan Munda from the Congress, Niyal Tirkey from the AJSU, Basant Longa from the JVM, Subodh Purti from the BSP, Enos Ekka from the Jharkhand Party, Nitima Bodra Bari from the SP, Mahadev Ravinath Pahan from the RADP, Budhwe Munda from the ABJP as well as Ashrita Tooti, Kalyan Nag, Jitendra Manki and Jaitoon Tooti as independents.
Jharkhand Party rules the roost in Simdega and Congress has given the ticket here to Kalicharan Munda. It is from Khunti-Torpa that Dayamani Barla had begun her protest movement. She has been touring villages appealing people to vote for good candidates in this election.
While asking for votes, she is also narrating stories of how tribal lands were taken away and how the protestors got them back.
In this election season, Dayamani Barla’s sitting at someone’s house, talking informally, drinking cold water and making people aware by asking them to use their vote fruitfully to safeguard the water, forests and the land is a welcome development.
It removes an unknown fear from the faces of the tribal people and creates new hopes for them. But the people there should look at their leaders carefully keeping in mind the incidents which took place in the Khunti parliamentary constituency in recent times.
At the same time, the people should remember personalities of leaders such as Jaipal Singh Munda and N. E. Horo and also cast a look at the personalities of the aspirants in the fray here. It is another issue that the various political parties are trying hard to show that they have been connected with the grassroots movements here. As a result, all of a sudden, in the posters put up by the local party, AJSU, former Chief Minister Sudesh Mahto appears as a revolutionary.
When the tribal intellectuals sitting in some hotel and sipping tea in Khunti district look at an AJSU poster, the process of analysis begins. On the other hand, people are also seen discussing that while the state considers Birsa Munda as a god, none of the local parties gave a ticket to his great granddaughter, Ashrita Tooti. Finally, she decided to contest as an independent. Independent candidate Kalyan Nag is touring villages and forests and telling people about his agenda.
Villagers are influenced by his confidence when he speaks about getting constitutional rights for the tribals, about improving the educational as well as economic standards of the tribal people and removing the various kinds of injustice that they have to face and he is also campaigning by disseminating his ideas through village panchayats.
But apart from these developments, there was a recent incident, which has terrorized the tribal people here. Some people forced Pushpa of Nidhiya village in Torpa Block at gunpoint to fold her hands and touch the feet of the villagers and appeal to them to vote for Enos Ekka of the Jharkhand Party.
Pushpa was campaigning for Dayamani Barla of the Aam Aadmi Party. The gunmen said they were members of the PLFI, while Dayamani Barla said they were goons sent by Enos Ekka. In this context, a female journalist tried to call Enos Ekka twenty times, so, she could speak directly to him but he didn’t take the call.
Famous documentary maker, Meghnath says the attacks against campaign vehicles of the AAP candidate Dayamani Barla and violence against her followers shows that the candidates from the other parties are a worried lot. Moving in the Torpa Block and talking to the villagers, one finds that efforts are being made to buy votes and the effects can be seen on the tribal voter.
But the local people here are not even talking about taking money for their votes. If none of the candidates fulfil their wishes, are the tribal villagers being educated about the NOTA option? If not, then why? The Jharkhand tribal people who speak of the community as a whole, also have turf wars amongst them, which stop them from organizing themselves as a powerful force. The decision of the tribal people to vote in the interest of their community could play an important role in shaping their future.