Ranchi, Dec 23 : Rebel BJP leader and former Jharkhand Minister Saryu Roy, whose efforts put two former Chief Ministers Lalu Prasad and Madhu Koda in jail for corruption, is leading by with nearly 9,000 votes against incumbent Chief Minister Raghubar Das in his bastion Jamshedpur East seat.
Roy, who contested as an Independent, is giving a tough fight to Das, securing 41, 214 votes against Das (32,796) – as at 5 p.m. – in an unprecedented trend which was not expected by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that had put on hold Roy’s ticket from Jamshedpur West, leading him to resign from the Ministry and Assembly and confront Das.
A two-time legislator from Jamshedpur West, Roy had, on November 17, quit the Cabinet in which he had held the Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs portfolios and announced his separation from the BJP.
The next day, he filed his nomination as an Independent candidate from Jamshedpur East seat which Das has held from 1995 – even before since the state’s first election in 2005 after it was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
Expelled from the BJP for six years for contesting as an Independent, Roy had alleged that he was denied ticket at the behest of Das and had decided to fight from Jamshedpur East in retaliation.
The Jamshedpur East constituency covers one of the two parts of the ‘Steel City’, a planned industrial town established by Tata Group’s founder Jamsetji Tata. The town’s economy largely runs on the steel plant and allied activities.
Roy, one of the petitioners demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the fodder scam in Bihar in the 1990s, had also filed cases in the court against Jharkhand government decisions and was vocal about corruption in the state, which has been ruled by the BJP for 14 of its 19 years of existenced.
Associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since 1962 when he was Class 8 student and was known to be close to former RSS Pracharak Govindacharya, he has friends across party lines.
While his “friendship” with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is well known, less known is the role he had played in making Lalu Prasad the Chief Minister in 1989-90 when they were all on the same side.
Roy is also known to be close to West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra.
Das had won Jamshedpur East in the 2014 Assembly elections by nearly 70,000 votes, with a JMM candidate finishing up as the runner-up in 2014. There were a a total of 20 candidates, including nine Independents, in the fray.
The first Jharkhand Chief Minister to complete five years in office, Das faced anti-incumbency, rural distress, resentment over lack of jobs and even a divide within the party over the choice of poll candidates, but was since morning expressing confidence that the BJP would return to power.
Elections to the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly were held in five phases from November 30 to December 20. The counting of votes began at 8 a.m. on Monday.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])