At Dumka, in his longest speech yet in the state that lasted for 58 minutes, Modi told 1.5 lakh crowds that the baap-beta - not naming Shibu Soren and son Hemant - were sinners and robbers who had filled their coffers.
His lavish attentions on Dumka and Barhait, his second rally, are evident by his desire to crush JMM scion Hemant in both seats. Overall, Modi wants to wrest a lion's share of the tribal heartland's 18 Assembly seats, without which it is mathematically tough for the BJP to get a majority government.
Modi also tackled the main fear of tribals, something that the JMM has fanned - that the BJP would take tribal land to give industrialists - head on, saying no one could dare do so.
He also flaunted his crash course in Santhali. " Aabowaak ponot aabowaak disom (our state, our country)," he told massive crowds at Dumka and Barhait, a message to JMM that he was not a diku (outsider in tribalspeak).
For the first time in Santhal Pargana's history, the BJP and the JMM are hitting the ground in a corporate, carpet-bombing style of campaigning.
In 2009, the JMM had won 10 of Santhal Pargana's 18 seats; the BJP merely two. This time, the BJP is hoping for a tectonic shift. The JMM, obviously, wants to prevent it by any means.
So, the JMM's campaign is thick with prognostications that the BJP, perceived as a Hindu, upper caste, trading party, will grab tribal land for business. The BJP is telling people that it's no use trusting known thieves anymore. BJP president Amit Shah and his trusted aides state party in-charge T.S. Rawat and co in-charge election Bhupendra Yadav have taken charge of preparations.
Yesterday, the BJP team headed by Rawat launched a "psychological war" on the JMM by arranging processions and cultural roadshows with over 3,000 tribal people to welcome Modi.
Explaining its relevance, Rawat told The Telegraph last night: "Tribals are no more with the JMM. They are with Modiji now. The fate of Dumka did not change even after Hemant (Soren) became the chief minister. Father and son have fooled tribals. They have prospered only by foisting insecurity complexes on tribals."
In the battle between Hemant and BJP candidate Louise Marandi, a tribal Christian woman, Modi's men are confident of votes from urban and rural Dumka. They are only worried whether the urban trading class will step out of homes to vote.
Hemant and Louise apart, no one seems bothered about the other nine candidates in Dumka. It's the same in Barhait, where Hemant's contest with BJP's Hemlal Murmu has taken the spotlight off the other nine nominees. Adding spice in Barhait is the fact that Hemlal used to be a veteran JMM member whom Hemant called chacha. If Hemant wins both seats, JMM's Stephen Marandi will get one.
Historically, the BJP was never welcome in Santhal Pargana. A Congress bastion, JMM took it as its birthright over three decades ago. If Hemant loses in Dumka and Barhait Assembly seats, it would be clear that the lotus has finally taken root.
Has the arrow's tip blunted? " Abhi bazaar garam hai," said Santosh Sahu, a tea stall owner at Tower Chowk in Dumka who listens to thousands of conversations every day. "Hemant babu kaante ki takkar me fanse hain aur mahaul bhi garam hai (Hemant is in a close contest and the mood is heated)," he said.
"JMM is now a party of contractors. Dumka's tragedy is that it has given Jharkhand chief ministers and ministers in name only," said Manoj Shah, a doctorate who runs a shop at Bhagalpur Dumka Road.
BJP inroads are visible in multi-religious Masalia revenue block, which always backed the JMM. A week ago, around 20 panchayat representatives, including Christians, Muslims and tribals, joined the BJP, a clear indication that the JMM's (Muslim-Tribal-Christian) formula was in danger.
The enthusiasm to Modi's twin rallies - even Barhait had crowds of nearly a lakh - clearly suggests that the BJP has made a dent.
The Telegraph, Calcutta
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