The Times Of India
Jaideep Deogharia
New Delhi

Nothing is more gripping in our democracy than the play played (curiously, mostly offstage) by a breed called Independents. They win elections without the (overt) support of any big or small party and often dictate terms on who will take control of the corridors of power.

Broadly speaking, this breed can be divided into two categories. Those who belong to the first group enjoy huge mass appeal and have connect with the grassroots. In short, they are people's representatives in the true sense of the term. The number of such people is few and far between in our country. The second category is interesting. It comprises people who can be called the punters ofpolitics the real protagonists of sideshows that take place off stage when no party or a coalition fails to win a simple majority.

They may be liked by some and disliked by others, but followed by all.

In Jharkhand. the number of such people is quite high, and in the past four years, their influence has grown bigger. It's but natural, for this is a state where the remnants of feudalism are still in existence, where clan leaders are looked upon as demigods, where an Independent MLA can become the chief minister, even unseat a chief minister, force President's Rule and keep the Assembly in suspended animation for about a year.

These people are true masters of their craft. This is the chief reason why they have come to control politics in Jharkhand is the absence of a clear mandate in polls.

Madhu Koda was the man who formed the government with support from UPA constituents. Earlier, he had won the elections on a BJP ticket but since he was denied a ticket by the party in 2005, he chose to contest as an Independent candidate. It was a desperate attempt to prove his importance and he did it by winning from Jaganathpur.

Stephen Marandi is another man, who fought assembly polls despite being a JMM MP at that time. It was a sort of war of attrition between him and JMM boss Shibu Soren against whom the former wanted to score a point or two. Stephen fought and won hands down.

Also in this bandwagon are Enos Ekka of Jharkhand Party and Harinarayan Rai, who got elected in 2005 elections, and Inder Singh Namdhari of JD(U), who quit the party to contest and win as an Independent in a by-election.

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