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Wednesday 19 February 2020

Jharkhand: 5 Mistakes That Cost BJP Dear

When the Assembly election campaign had barely begun, even supporters of the BJP had already ruled out a victory; Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded apprehensive, too


Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar
This consulting editor of Sirf News is a senior journalist with more than 20 years of experience in reporting and editing, has worked with Hindusthan Samachar (news agency), Mail Today, Hindustan Times, Mid-Day, etc


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In the electoral battle of Jharkhand, known for coal and uranium mines, the ruling BJP seems to be heading towards defeat in the trends even though the JMM-INC-RJD combine do not get the majority either. In the latest trends, the opposition mahagathbandhan led by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is at times appearing in the driver’s seat and at times slipping from the majority mark. The picture will be clear by 5 PM or later when Sirf News will furnish you with the final report on the Jharkhand Assembly election.

In the 2014 Assembly election, the BJP had contested along with its ally All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). BJP got 37 seats and AJSU got 5 seats.

Chief Minister Raghubar Das, who has run the government for almost five years, is reported to be upset with his people due to the election result. Five reasons why BJP’s lotus wilted in Jharkhand’s election season follow.

1. Ignoring Jharkhand allies

In this year’s Assembly elections, the BJP ignored its ally and decided to enter the electoral arena alone, perhaps influenced by the Maharashtra experience where its pre-poll ally Shiv Sena had ditched it. The decision in Jharkhand, however, proved counterproductive for the BJP.

AJSU is doing well in the latest trends. Since the formation of Jharkhand in the year 2000, the BJP and AJSU had been fighting elections together until 2019. The LJP, another BJP ally, proposed to contest the election together, but the BJP rejected it. Later, the LJP had to contest alone.

Now, the value of an ally is understood not merely by the number of seats it wins but also from the number of votes it gets. When an ally loses a seat, it still gets votes for the alliance. So, the fate of the seats where the JMM-INC-RJD is beating the BJP with thin margins could have been different if the votes that went to the AJSU and LJP, without being enough to make either win, had gone to a hypothetical BJP-AJSU-LJP combine that did not shape up this time. The number of seats the two former allies had demanded, however, was too high in the BJP’s reckoning. But taking a rigid stand a bit too soon rather than negotiating a bit longer was the mistake of the saffron party’s central leadership.

2. Challengers’ unity

The opposition, in contrast, contested in unison and demolished this fort of BJP. The grand alliance of JMM, RJD and Congress emerged as a formidable challenge for the BJP. These three parties had fought separately in the 2014 election.

Anti-incumbency was palpable in the streets of Jharkhand. Known BJP supporters including journalists had begun saying the results would not be good for the party when the campaign for the election had barely started.

Towards the second half of the campaign, the prime minister sounded apprehensive, too. Modi tried to reverse the trend by telling the voters a Karnataka-like mandate would mean uncertainty and political instability.

While the locals were not excited about the opposition parties either, many were plain bored by the listless Raghubar Das government (more about it under the section “Image-less government”). Separately, none of the JMM, the INC and the RJD stood a chance, but together they did.

3. Rebellion

Just before the Jharkhand election, the BJP received quite a setback from its own leaders. Radhakrishna Kishore, a prominent leader of the saffron party, left the BJP and joined hands with AJSU. Kishore’s move to AJSU was a major setback for the BJP.

During the ticket distribution, BJP did not give a ticket to its senior leader Saryu Rai who went on to contest against Chief Minister Raghubar Das from the Jamshedpur East seat. In the latest trends, Saryu Rai is ahead of Raghubar Das.

4. Image-less government

During the Jharkhand Assembly election, the BJP claimed that it would get 65 seats out of 81 and would single-handedly form the government in the State. The BJP was hopeful if it contested the election with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the mascot, it would succeed. As part of its strategy, BJP organised several rallies of Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Jharkhand. The duo tried to attract voters with nationalism in the package of NRC and CAA. The prime minister spoke extensively in every speech about “vikas“, too. However, the Das government was no economic wonder that could be advertised with the help of the Modi brand.

A Hindustan Times article earlier this month said, “The state-owned companies that once drove the region’s economy, providing jobs, and, more importantly, education and health infrastructure in the townships, hire few people in permanent positions… In Petarvar, a small market town between Ranchi and Bokaro Steel City, three young men working in an auto repair shop want to be able to make at least Rs 500 each per day instead of the Rs 150 they earn today. All three of them received skill training under a government programme and migrated outside; two to Chennai, one to Uttarakhand, but wages were too low to survive there… A group of jobless ST labourers sitting at the village square in Biru in Simdega district wants the government to provide work in their village to pay just Rs 150-200 a day.”

BJP introduced its Hindu poster boy Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for campaigning in Jharkhand’s election summer. But the Das government itself did not have a Hindutva image that could be bolstered by Yogi. Despite the nationwide knowledge of rampant conversions in the State by missionaries, Raghubar Das never tried to build a Hindu backlash, shocking the community with the fact that the Adivasi population is now almost wholly Christian. Hindutva icon Yogi Adityanath could hardly superimpose his image on Das’s uninspiring persona.

5. No Adivasi face

In Jharkhand, 26.3% of the population is of tribal people and 28 seats are reserved for them. The mahagathbandhan made JMM tribal leader Hemant Soren their chief ministerial candidate while BJP’s non-tribal face Raghubar Das was to continue as the chief minister in the event of a BJP victory.

Among the tribal communities of Jharkhand, there was resentment against Das’s policies, especially economic, as explained above. They believed that Das made anti-tribal policies during his five-year tenure.

During a journey to Khunti, some tribal people threw shoes and slippers at the chief minister. If sources are to be believed, the demand to make Arjun Munda, who is a tribal, the chief ministerial candidate was raised on the occasion, but the BJP’s top leadership placed a bet on Das, which backfired.

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