Come to the tribal heartland of Santhal pargana in Jharkhand, known as the fort and bastion of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the bow and arrow symbol of the party commands a special space in everyone’s heart.
They don’t see who the candidate is; all they look for is the bow and arrow symbol and JMM supremo Shibu Soren.
Soren is eyeing for his eight term in Parliament. Almost invincible from Santhal, he lost the general polls thrice during his political career in the last five decades.
After his father got killed, Soren launched a massive campaign against ‘mahajani pratha’. Mahajans were those who use to lend money to people on interest, and once they were caught in the ‘vicious trap’, they ended up losing everything.
Gradually, Shibu Soren became popular and accorded guruji status. In 1980, he entered the electoral politics and had to never look back. He won the parliamentary elections seven times and seeking an eighth term.
However, Soren is suffering from severe health issues now and keeps self confined in a room in his bungalow in Ranchi. He rarely attends sessions at Parliament, and also keeps mum most of the time.
He has almost never raised questions on public interests. Many say that Soren is suffering from alzheimer. But, his brand symbol ‘bow and arrow’ is still instrumental and has kept his party in the political game.
There are 13 lakh voters in Dumka and 30 per cent of them are tribals, who are die-hard supporters of ‘bow and arrow’ party. They claim the JMM has been fighting for their rights and always salvaged the tribe’s pride from the dikus (the outsiders).
However, there is not even an iota of development in Santhal in the last five years. The area still battles for infrastructural facility and basic amenities such as water, food and shelter. There are an acute lack of hospitals and quality health facilities, too.
Now, the million dollar question is, will the area witness a change in the voting trend this Lok Sabha election and will development projects in Santhal become an issue or agenda, or will it continue to live in dark with the traditional patterns of voting.
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