Ranchi: After voting in five-phased Assembly polls, the people of Jharkhand will finally get to see the winner of the neck-to-neck political contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance as the counting of votes will take place today.
BJP, which had won 37 seats in the last Assembly elections, coined the slogan "Abki baar 65 paar". However, the ruling party is facing a stiff challenge as the alliance of JMM, Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) seems to have an advantage, as per exit polls released last week.
Major political parties
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), All Jharkhand Students' Union (AJSU) and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) are among the major political parties which are in the fray in the tribal-dominated state.
Raghubar Das took oath as Chief Minister in 2014 after the BJP won 37 seats and stitched an alliance with the AJSU, which had won 5 seats. However, AJSU broke ties with BJP and contested elections solo this time.
The ruling party has fielded its candidates in 79 out of the 81 seats. However, BJP has not fielded any candidate against AJSU's Sudesh Mahto, and has supported a candidate in the remaining one constituency.
Under the leadership of JMM chief Hemant Soren, Congress and RJD have come together to oust BJP from power. JMM has fielded candidates in 43 seats, while the Congress and the RJD candidates are in the fray in 31 and seven constituencies, respectively.
Raghubar Das is contesting from the Jamshedpur East seat against his ex-cabinet colleague Saryu Rai, who is fighting as an independent, and Congress candidate Gourav Vallabh.
Former Chief Minister Hemant Soren is the fray from two seats -- Dumka and Barhet. BJP has pitted Women and Child Development Minister Louis Marandi in Dumka against Soren.
Among other big leaders are AJSU President Sudesh Mahto, who lost the 2014 Assembly poll, and is trying his luck again from Silli seat and former Chief Minister and JVM-P chief Babulal Marandi who is fighting from Dhanwar Assembly seat.
Jharkhand Agriculture Minister Randhir Singh is contesting from Sarath constituency, former deputy chief minister and sitting JMM MLA Stephen Marandi is in the poll fray from Maheshpur and JD(U)'s Salkhan Murmu is fighting from Sikaripara.
Exit polls predict hung Assembly
The exits polls have indicated a marginal advantage to the JMM-led alliance but have pointed towards a hung Assembly.
According to the ABP/C-Voter exit poll, JMM, Congress and RJD will retain 35 seats. It has, however, given 32 seats to the ruling BJP, 5 to AJSU and three to the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) and six to others.
India Today-Axis My India shows that the BJP is going to trail behind the Congress. It has given JMM-led opposition between 38 and 50 seats and the BJP between 22 and 32 seats. It has predicted 3 to 5 seats for the AJSU, 2 to 4 seats for the JVM-P, and 4 to 7 seats to others.
2014 Assembly election results
After BJP swept power at the Centre, the party managed to increase its tally from 18 in 2009 Assembly polls to 37 in 2014 polls in the state. After the polls, six JVM-P MLA merged with the BJP.
JMM won 17 seats, while its current ally Congress bagged six seats, and five seats went to AJSU's tally.
The tenure of the current Assembly ends on January 5, 2020. This is the fourth Assembly election in Jharkhand since the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
In case of a hung Assembly, AJSU and JVM-P could emerge as key players in the next government formation.
According to the Election Commission of India, the approximate voter turnout for all the 81 assembly constituencies across the five phases was 65.17 per cent as compared to the 66.53 per cent recorded in the 2014 elections.