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|August 25, 1999||
Congress, JMM-S wait for full moon
Sanjay Kumar Jha in Dhanbad
The Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Soren are waiting for the full moon to start campaigning for the Lok Sabha poll in the Jharkhand region of south Bihar.
Nominations have begun for the 13 seats, but the contestants and their followers are still to begin campaigning in the dusty villages and towns of the region.
The Congress and the JMM-S, who fared poorly in 1998, have said that their campaign would formally start from tomorrow, the auspicious day of the full moon. The region goes to the polls on September 18.
The BJP, which bagged 11 of the 13 seats last year, has, however, set off its mass contact programme and directed the cadres to organise themselves at booth and block levels.
Bharatiya Janata Party nominees, Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha (Hazaribagh), Rita Verma (Dhanbad) and Karia Munda (Khunti) have been in touch with voters ever since the poll schedule had been announced.
But, the party's star campaigners -- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and film star Shatrughan Sinha - have not yet visited the region.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi was to visit the coal city on July 3, but her tour was cancelled. The party is yet to begin campaigning as tickets remain undecided for nine seats and the leaders are camping in Delhi.
''We have not started campaigning because a decision on seats is awaited. Campaigning is likely to begin from full moon day,'' a senior party leader said.
The Congress has finalised nominees only for the reserved constituencies of Lohardaga and Singhbhum, from where it won in the last election. Indranath Bhagat (Lohardaga) and Vijay Singh Soy (Singhbhum) have been renominated. The party has left the Chatra and Palamau seats to its alliance partner, the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The JMM-S is also beginning its campaign formally on the full moon day. Party president Shibu Soren has, however, directed the cadres to organise meetings at booth levels. The booth committees would comprise bands of 15 workers, ten of them women.
The party is relying on Soren, who was released from jail recently, and vice-president Suraj Mandal, to lead the campaigning.
Efforts are still on to rope in the party's splinter groups.
''I have offerred the JMM-S electoral symbol (bow and arrow) to Teklal Mahato (Hazaribagh) and Shiva Mahato (Giridih),'' Soren said. Teklal and Shiva, of the Jharkhand-Ulgulan, are members of the Bihar assembly.
Meanwhile, the process of filing nominations is picking up. Among the early birds were the BJP's Karia Munda (Khunti), Dukha Bhagat (Lohardaga), Rita Verma (Dhanbad) and Dhirendra Agrawal (Chatra).
Jharkhand-U nominees Sudhir Mahato, who had got nearly 70,000 votes from Jamshedpur in 1998, and Ajay Krishna Modi (Koderma) also have filed their papers.
To ensure a peaceful election, the police have launched a drive to arrest anti-social elements in Dhanbad, Giridih, Hazaribagh, Ranchi and other districts. A 'physical verification' of licensed arms is on in these districts and inter-district coordination is being maintained to contain the naxalites who have given a call to boycott the polls.
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