Ranchi: The opposition in Jharkhand is set to show a united front against the ruling BJP on saturday in a two-day “economic blockade” to denounce the government’s domicile policy and in polling for two Rajya Sabha seats.
The opposition parties allege that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state in coalition with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), is suppressing the voice of the tribal and Moolvasi people and snatching the rights of the poorest.
“We have to restore the democratic process in the state. We cannot allow suppression of the voice of the people,” state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat told reporters.
The BJP has also been accused of attempting to suborn the opposition MLAs by fielding two candidates for two Rajya Sabha seats from Jharkhand to be decided on Saturday even though it has the votes to bag only one seat.
On Thursday, an opposition parties’ delegation led by Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) met Governor Draupadi Murmu and informed her about their stand on the domicile policy and the Rajya Sabha polls.
The Raghubar Das government, on the other hand, has made heavy deployment of security forces to deal with the two-day economic blockade starting on Saturday, which has been called by the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) of Babulal Marandi to protest against the domicile policy.
The economic blockade has been supported by the Congress, the JMM of Shibu Soren and other opposition parties which say that the domicile policy is against the interests of the tribal and Moolvasi people of the state.
The opposition parties’ activists are expected on Saturday to block the main roads, railway tracks and major mines to focus attention on their demands.
The government had used stern measures against the May 14 shutdown organised by the opposition against the domicile policy, arresting close to 9000 people, including 10 legislators.
This time around, police are conducting mock drills here to deal with the protesters. An alert has been sounded for the security of the highways, railways and important places. The demonstrations will be videographed and surveyed through drones.
The ruling and opposition parties have also held meetings here to decide their strategies for the Rajya Sabha polls.
There are three candidates — Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Mahesh Poddar from the BJP and Basant Soren from the JMM — for the two seats. So there is bitter fight for the vote of every MLA.
Jharkhand’s legislators do not enjoy a clean record in voting in Rajya Sabha elections. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is still investigating charges of horse-trading in two such polls.
“We have the numbers to be able to ensure victory of our candidate with a large margin of votes,” Hemant Soren Executive President of JMM — who is also Basant Soren’s brother — told reporters.
To win a seat a candidate requires a minimum of 28 votes in the 81-member Jharkhand assembly.
The BJP and its ally AJSU together have 47 votes. They have also managed to bring Geeta Koda of Jai Bharat Samanta Party and Bhanu Pratap Sahi of Navjawan Sangarsh Morcha to their side.
This means that Naqvi will be able to sail through, but Poddar will be left with only about 19 votes.
On the side of the opposition, the JMM has 19, Congress seven and JVM(P) two votes.
Also supporting the opposition are Arup Chatterjee of the Marxist Co-ordination Committee (MCC) and Rajkumar Yadav of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.
The BJP can get both its candidates through only by poaching the opposition’s MLAs.
The JMM and the Congress are wary of such attempts and are doing everything they can to keep their MLAs from crossing over to the other side.