With assistance from the RJD, Jharkhand’s “best MLA” attempts to upset the apple cart in a BJP stronghold.

Vinod Singh

With assistance from the RJD, Jharkhand’s “best MLA” attempts to upset the apple cart in a BJP stronghold.

Vinod Singh
RK Talent Show 2024

You heard my name, but why? Not for lying, is that right? Regardless of the administration or the CM or PM, I fight for the people.

Vinod Singh, the 46-year-old CPI(M-L) Liberation candidate running in the Kodarma Lok Sabha seat, has this as his primary election platform. Voting takes place on Monday. Singh is relying on a group of devoted fans to conduct his crowdfunded election campaign. His followers who “believe in his work” are accompanied by a buddy from Mumbai who takes care of his photos and another who manages his social media.

Singh, the current member of parliament for the Bagodar Assembly seat in Kodarma, has built a reputation in the Jharkhand Assembly for “raising the issues of the poor and marginalized classes.” He had previously won here in 2009 and 2005, but he had lost in 2014 before to his victory in the Bagodar poll in 2019.

Singh, a social science postgraduate from Banaras Hindu University, entered electoral politics following the 2005 assassination of his father, fiery CPI(ML) Liberation leader Mahendra Singh. Most likely, I would have become a lecturer. My three sisters and I were politically conscious, but my father never wanted us to get involved in electoral politics. Singh stated of his father—who served as a representative for Bagodar twice before being assassinated by the Naxals—that “his death did not surprise me since he had irked the power centres for fighting for the poor.”

His opponent in this Lok Sabha campaign is the incumbent Kodarma MP and Union Minister of State for Education, Annapurna Devi, a formidable BJP member. He hopes to win over supporters in the five other Assembly constituencies in Kodarma. Between 2004 and 2009, current state BJP president Babulal Marandi won the seat three times—once as an Independent and once on the platform of a party he had founded—while the BJP won the subsequent two elections.

There are roughly forty-five percent of people in the constituency who are members of Other Backward Class (OBC) groups, according to various party sources. Yadavs alone make about 18% of the OBCs. Based on the caste formula, Devi filled the void in 2019 when the RJD, which typically depends on Yadav and OBC votes, did not have a candidate. But this time, Singh is attempting to corner the RJD’s support base by uniting the Opposition INDIA bloc.

During a recent demonstration in Pipcho village, Singh speaks briefly. Senior RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who hobbles onto the platform to solicit votes for Singh despite a leg injury, is alongside him.

In response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on “mangalsutra,” in which he claimed that the Congress and Opposition aimed to divide up the riches of the people among Muslims, Yadav asserts that the 5 lakh jobs his previous government created in Bihar assisted many in getting married. “This indicates that mangalsutra has been given,” he declares, drawing enthusiastic applause from the assembly, particularly from the women.

After the rally, Singh complies with the incessant demands for selfies. A crowd swells around him with each step he makes. It takes him thirty minutes to get to his vehicle.

Singh arrives to the neighboring village of Nayi Tand 1.5 hours later. Even though this is his first visit to the area, he claims that the locals are aware of his work. Politicians, according to a local lady, make promises but never follow through. But a different villager adds, “But we are aware of your efforts. We’ll cast our votes for you this time.

Singh has repeatedly cornered Hemant Soren in the Assembly over issues such as compensation for migrant laborers’ deaths, alleged police repression, hunger-related deaths, and unemployment, even though Singh is in the coalition government with his jailed former chief minister’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). Singh made it a point to bring up the subject of prisoner conditions in the Assembly in 2013, following his three-day incarceration due to mistaken identity. The Jharkhand Assembly named Singh the best lawmaker in 2022.

“The death of migrant laborers in other states and countries is one of the biggest problems in the area,” Singh asserts. “I have been coordinating with the families and the authorities after 15 deaths in the last 15 days of my election campaign,” he continues. India lacks a reliable system to care for its laborers who are employed abroad. I will fight for them if elected.

The Domchanch market area in Kodarma, which was formerly a hub for the collecting of mica taken from the constituency’s mines, is about a forty-minute ride away. Nearly 70,000 people still depend on harvesting mica sheets for export, even though the mica mines have since closed. Singh states in that address that the Hemant Soren administration intended to establish a cooperative in order to legalize the sale of mica sheets. The Center, however, disagreed, claiming that since there are particles of lithium beneath it, the state has no authority over it.

The leader of the CPI(ML) Liberation said he will bring up any subject, even mica, as he walks around the market. He mocks Modi by saying, “Not like the person who promised Rs 15 lakh to you.”

Singh departs for the Yadav- and Dalit-dominated villages of Dasaro Khurd and Purani Bakhri, to the cheers of small audiences. He makes it a point to pay respects at the B R Ambedkar statue at Purani Bakhri.

In addition to the typical issues of limited facilities and bad infrastructure, Singh notes that a frequent concern among Dalit voters is the worry that the Modi government is threatening the Constitution, their icon’s gift to the nation.

Singh leaves for Simaria village around 9.30 p.m. for his final rally of the day. The villagers congregated beneath a tree squint in an attempt to catch a sight of Singh. Speaking to the gathering in the regional language, Singh claims that although the BJP is bragging about “abki baar, 400 paar (400-plus seats this time)”, the average local income is only Rs 400 a day.

“The BJP claims to have “400+ seats,” but they really want the Constitution changed. Although the difficulties don’t only arise during election season, the politicians don’t come around every five years, according to Singh. You won’t receive anything till there is a champion in Delhi. This has been my goal, and I promise you that you will be happy to stand with me when my voice reverberates across Parliament.

During her campaign, Kalpana Soren, who is running from the Gandey assembly in the Kodarma Loksabha Constituency, also asked for support for Vinod Singh.

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