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Corporate honcho, MP push for Hemant Soren as Jharkhand CM (IANS EXCLUSIVE)

BY ANINDYA BANERJEE   |  New Delhi

20-December-2019

 As the fifth and final phase of Jharkhand polls began on Friday for 16 Assembly constituencies, Sahebganj, Pakur, Dumka, Jamtara, Deoghar and Godda districts may prove decisive in which way the state will swing on December 23 when EVMs are opened.

But either way, as most pre-poll surveys predicted a hung assembly, someone is working behind the scenes to ensure Hemant Soren becomes the next Chief Minister of the state.

Dumka, which is also the sub-capital of Jharkhand, some 270 kms northeast of Ranchi suits Hemant Soren as the JMM patriarch Shibu Soren is still fondly remembered in the region. Being the son of "Dishom Guru" stands to help Soren junior.

IANS has reliably learnt that two individuals -- a prominent industrialist and a sitting Rajya Sabha MP -- may hold the key as to who will form the next government in the industry-dependant and mineral-rich state, if no party or alliance is able to get enough votes to stake claim to power.

The BJP claimed that it would get "Abki baar 65 paar" in the ongoing Jharkhand Assembly election. But according to state BJP leaders, the saffron party is likely to be restrained in the bracket of 32 to 36 seats in the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly with 42 being the cut-off mark.

In such a scenario, two players may come out as crucial -- Babulal Marandi and Sudesh Mahto. Marandi was the first Chief Minister of Jharkhand. His Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), which stayed out of the NDA or the UPA, is expected to fetch somewhere between 9 and 11 seats.

On the other hand, Sudesh Mahto's All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), which split from the NDA just before the Assembly elections, had won five seats in the last Assembly polls and is expected to retain as much.

If neither the Congress-JMM-RJD alliance or the BJP get to the magic number of 42, the concerned industrialist is likely to step in to stitch an alliance. Sources said the industrialist is keen on Hemant Soren as the next Jharkhand Chief Minister, who is contesting from Dumka on Friday.

A sitting Rajya Sabha MP, who holds huge power and influence among the who's who of Jharkhand power circles and is a close confidant of the industrialist, may also be used to bring either Mahto or Marandi or both on board, depending on the number of seats the Congress-JMM-RJD alliance manages to get.

Sudesh Mahto left the NDA on a very bitter note and Marandi, who had fought elections for the BJP earlier, is more comfortable doing business with the Congress and the JMM than with the BJP.

In fact, Marandi's JVM-P was in talks with the Congress-JMM-RJD alliance before the polls, but seat sharing talks failed as the JVM-P asked for more.

If anyone was exploring any probablity of a post-poll JMM-BJP alliance, that slim probability was written off with Soren's controversial comment alleging that saffron-clad politicians "do not marry but rape women".

Addressing a poll rally in Pakur, Soren had said on Wednesday: "I have heard that Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath has also been doing the rounds of Jharkhand. These are the people, BJP people, who often don't get married, but dressed in saffron, they rape duaghters and daughters-in-law. Shall we vote for such people who rape women?"

This brings it back to either the Congress, JMM, RJD alliance or the BJP.

Speaking to IANS, more than one state BJP leader has confirmed that BJP's "65 par" is an unrealistic dream. They insist that the BJP won't even cross 40 seats and is likely to be restricted between 32 and 36.

While one central leader insisted that the numbers could go up owing to the BJP faring better in the last two phases, he conceded that crossing the 38-seat mark will be a tough ask.

"We fared terribly in the second phase when 20 seats were up for grabs. We are likely to get 6 seats in that phase. Much of it is due to anger against incumbent Chief Minister Raghubar Das, whose constituency also voted in the second phase," claimed a BJP insider.

With a hung Assembly scenario looking increasingly possible, all eyes will be on the exit poll results for the industrialist and the MP to do their "job" and secure Hemant Soren an easy ticket to the top post in the state.IANS