With the opposition alliance projecting Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Hemant Soren as its face for the upcoming state assembly elections, Jharkhand is now bracing for a direct contest between him and the BJP's Raghubar Das for the chief minister's post.
RPN Singh, Congress general secretary and the party in-charge of Jharkhand, announced at a press conference in Ranchi today that Hemant Soren will not only be the alliance's chief ministerial face but also the driving force behind its campaign for the five-round elections culminating on December 23.
While Raghubar Das heads the incumbent BJP government in Jharkhand, Hemant Soren has served as its Chief Minister in the past.
The opposition alliance also announced its seat-sharing arrangement for the upcoming polls at the press conference, handing 43 seats to the JMM, 31 to the Congress and seven to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). However, RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav stayed away from the event, reportedly to meet his father Lalu Prasad Yadav at the Birsa Munda Central Jail.
"This is the first time that the opposition has stitched an alliance against the BJP. But I would like to clarify that there will be no confusion regarding seats this time, no 'friendly contests' on any seat, and Hemant Soren - as the leader of the alliance - will canvass for every candidate of the alliance," Mr Singh said.
The BJP has set a target of 65 seats for the Jharkhand elections, and confirmed that its campaign will be led by Raghubar Das himself. The ruling party had won 37 seats in the 2014 Jharkhand polls, and later gone past the majority mark as a number of MLAs joined it from other parties.
All the parties in the opposition alliance will be contesting from fewer seats this time as opposed to the previous election. Back then, the JMM won 19 of the 79 seats it contested from while the Congress fielded candidates from 62 and won just six. Not even one of the 19 candidates put up by the RJD managed to score a win.