Will Saryu Rai become opposition face in Jharkhand?

Ranchi (IANS) The opposition parties in Jharkhand have extended moral support to rebel BJP leader Saryu Rai who is fighting against Chief Minister Raghubar Das, but will he be the opposition's face after the polls - is the big question.

Saryu Rai, while filing his nomination papers, had said, "it is a fight against fear and corruption". Rai had always been giving fodder to opposition parties against his own government in the last five years. The JMM, which is trying to politically use Rai's statement against the BJP, had on several occasions in the past asked Rai to resign if he felt the Raghubar Das government was corrupt.

JMM working president Hemant Soren hinted at making Rai's case as an issue of honesty versus corruption against the BJP.

Sensing an opportunity, Soren appealed to all the non-BJP parties to support Rai in the Jamshedpur East seat from where Raghubar Das is also contesting.

Rai, who was the food and supply minister in Raghubar Das Cabinet till Sunday, has always carried an image of honesty and frankness even within the BJP. Now, after turning a rebel, Rai has been accusing the BJP leaders of corruption.

Sources in the JMM have said that Soren is going to use Rai's statements not only against the chief minister but also to create a wave against the BJP in the state.

"Saryu Rai has raised relevant and serious questions and BJP should answer them. During the last five years, JMM has been raising issues like amendment in land acts, employment, issues of farmers inside and outside Assembly," Vinod Pandey, JMM general secretary told IANS.

Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a close friend of Rai, has declined to campaign for him, a setback for Rai.

JMM might have appealed opposition parties to support Rai but its alliance partner Congress has fielded party national spokesperson Gaurav Ballabh from Jamshedpur East. With Congress candidate in the fray, it is going to be a triangular fight here.

"Saryu Rai might be relevant but he quit BJP after he was denied ticket. He should have resigned from Cabinet much before denial of the ticket," Alok Dubey, Congress spokesperson told IANS.

On Saryu Rai, AJSU, estranged ally of the BJP, has said that Assembly needs serious people.

Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajantantrik (JVM-P) president Babulal Marandi termed Rai as BJP's internal issue. JVM-P has also fielded candidate from Jamshedpur East.

The seat has been a bastion of the BJP with Das winning it since 1995.

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