Munda licks wounds after BJP defeat

Ranchi, May 4: Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda Friday counted the political consequences after party colleague S.S. Ahluwalia lost the Rajya Sabha election.

Munda, who heads the Bharatiya Janata Party-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) coalition, was caught off guard when the BJP decided to field Ahluwalia although the numbers were stacked against him.

Election for two Rajya Sabha seats were held again after the earlier March 30 ballot was countermanded on suspicion of illegality.

Initially, the BJP had supported JMM’s Sanjiv Kumar and promised to back the JMM in the fresh polls too.

But Munda’s detractors lobbied with the BJP in New Delhi and persuaded them to field its own candidate, said a BJP source.

BJP’s defeat has dented its image as it could not win despite being in the Jharkhand government.

The All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), BJP’s other ally, had five legislators and held the key to propelling a candidate to the Rajya Sabha.

But for its support, it demanded the road portfolio, now handled by Munda, said an infromed source. The chief minister declined to accept the demand.

He also reportedly declined to accept other demands of independents and jailed legislators.

In the election, seven independent legislators voted in favour of Congress’ Pradeep Balmuchu.

BJP’s Ahluwalia could have won if got three more votes.

BJP state president Dineshanand Goswami has demanded a probe into the support extended by independents and jailed legislators to the Congress candidate.

In the 81-member Jharkhand assembly, only 68 legislators voted.

Congress, JMM and BJP candidates Pradeep Balmuchu, Sanjiv Kumar and S.S. Ahluwalia secured 25, 23 and 20 votes respectively.

After Kumar’s victory, Deputy Chief Minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren said: “There is no threat to the government”.

IANS