Ten months into President's rule, imposed after no alliance could stake claim to form a seventh government, the Jharkhand electorate will choose their government when the first of the five-phase assembly elections gets underway on November 25. Campaigning in Jharkhand ended on Monday and a total of 11,42,150 people are eligible to vote for 26 out of the 80 seats in the first phase, according to Election Commission sources in Ranchi.
The Jharkhand Assembly has 81 members, but one seat was countermanded after sitting MLA and Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Chittaranjan Yadav passed away on Sunday. A total of 470 candidates are in fray for the first phase of elections with prominent alliance partners being Congress-Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantric), BJP-Janata Dal-United, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party-Left parties fielding their candidates.
The multi-crore hawala scam involving former Chief Minister Madhu Koda and his aides has hogged headlines for three weeks even as the Congress and the BJP blamed each other for corruption in the state. Union Ministers Subodh Kant Sahay and Ajay Maken and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh accused the National Democratic Alliance of laying the foundation for corruption and promised to bring the BJP regimes during the Koda government under the purview of investigation.
Countering the charges, NDA leaders L K Advani, Sharad Yadav, Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu charged the Congress with supporting the 'corrupt' Koda government for 23 months. Singh and Naidu also expressed apprehension that the investigation into the Koda scam could be hushed up to 'protect' many 'backroom players'. Corruption, Naxalism and under-development have been among the main issues touched upon by various leaders.
All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed issues of tribal welfare, development and stability during their whirlwind visits. The Congress president said violence had no place in democracy and solutions could be brought about through non-violent methods. Rahul Gandhi said the Manmohan Singh government was committed to reach out to every section of society and eradicate poverty in the state. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan campaigned jointly in some places and blamed the Centre for spiralling price rise.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and Union Minister of state for Shipping Mukul Roy of the Trinamool Congress also threw their weight behind their respective candidates. In the first phase, the JMM has fielded 25 candidates, the Congress has fielded 18, the JVM-P has fielded 10, the BJP has fielded 22, the JD-U has fielded 3 and the RJD has fielded 22, the CPI (M)has fielded 6, the CPI has fielded one and the CPI (ML-Liberation) has fielded four respectively.
All the five phases of the elections will end by December 18 and results will be announced on December 23 to put in place the seventh government in just over nine years. Babulal Marandi, Shibu Soren (twice), Arjun Munda (twice) and Madhu Koda had been the chief ministers since November 15, 2000. Had the Soren government continued, its term would have ended in March.
Soren, who removed Koda in August, 2008 to assume office for the second time in the same house, had quit as chief minister chair in January after losing a bypoll, leading to the imposition of President's rule on January 19. Soren had a short nine-day stint soon after the first assembly elections threw a fractured mandate in March/April, 2005. After a fortnight-long drama, Soren had to quit following Supreme Court's directive and Arjun Munda took charge-- his second stint after he replaced Babulal Marandi in March 2003 after Marandi lost confidence of his allies.
Independent MLAs Madhu Koda, Enos Ekka, Harinaraiyan Rai and other small regional parties played significant roles in the formation of four governments in as many years since 2005. Barring the nine-day stint of the Soren Cabinet, Koda had been a minister since November 15, 2000 till Soren took over from him in August, 2008. Koda however, managed to be the chairman of the United Progressive Alliance's steering committee in the state.