New Delhi: The biggest upset in the Jharkhand assembly elections has come in Jamshedpur East, where incumbent chief minister Raghubar Das of the BJP is set to lose for the first time since 1995.
What makes the result even more humiliating for Das is that he is being defeated by one of his former ministers, Saryu Roy, who fought as an independent after being denied a ticket by the BJP. According to the Election Commission of India’s figures at 6.55 pm, Roy was leading by 12,814 votes against Das.
Roy had won the Jamshedpur (West) seat in 2005, lost in 2009, and won again in 2014.
Roy not just any adversary
Fighting strong anti-incumbency and growing unpopularity, the Jamshedpur (East) contest was one of the toughest in Das’ political career, also because Roy was not just any other political adversary. He had earned the sobriquet ‘giant killer’ after he built watertight cases to oust two former CMs on corruption charges — Lalu Prasad Yadav and Madhu Koda.
Roy was the food minister in Das’ government, and openly levelled charges of corruption against the CM. He even took his complaints to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The equation between Das and Roy became so acrimonious that the latter stopped attending cabinet meetings chaired by the CM. So, it came as no surprise that when tickets were being distributed, Roy was denied a chance to contest, forcing him to leave the party and contest as an independent.
“Raghubar Das had turned the Jamshedpur (East) battle into a prestige issue,” said a BJP state unit leader, who did not want to be named.
Though he contested as an independent, Roy received support from completely disparate groups. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), led by Hemant Soren, campaigned for him instead of its ally Congress’ Gourav Vallabh.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, whose party Janata Dal (United) is a BJP ally, supported him too, because they are old friends.
Why Das lost his fortress
An old BJP hand, Das provided the first stable government in Jharkhand since the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000. But he battled a strong perception of being arrogant and high-handed.
He was also seen as anti-tribal, after his government’s unsuccessful attempt to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, which restrict the sale of tribal land to non-tribals.
Even his own party men had complained about Das’ arrogant behaviour a few months ago. “He did not take anybody along,” said a BJP state unit leader.
Das’ earlier stint in the government as urban development minister was marred with controversy. In 2005, corruption allegations were levelled against him by the opposition. He was accused of favouring a Singapore-based firm that was awarded a Rs 200-crore contract to provide consultancy services to build sewerage and drainage systems in the capital city of Ranchi.
Though the Arjun Munda-led BJP government cleared him of all charges, a high-level panel of the Jharkhand assembly indicted him in the case.
in his complaint to the PM, Roy had also referred to this case against Das.