(Image Credit – Economic Times)
In 2014, the BJP, which won 43 seats, formed the government along with All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) which had won 5 seats and Raghubar Das took over as the Chief Minister.
The 81 member Jharkhand Assembly is set to go for a five-phase election from November 30 to December 20. Major parties in the fray are the BJP, AJSU, Congress, Janata Dal United (JDU), Jharkhand MuktiMorcha (JMM), Jharkhand VikasMorchaPrajatantrik (JVM – P), LokJanshakti Party (LJP) and RashtriyaJanata Dal (RJD).
Citing that both parties, BJP and AJSU couldn’t reach a consensus on seat sharing, the BJP decided on Thursday to enter the field alone and also support independent candidates. The Janata Dal (United) (JDU) has also decided to contest elections alone, and even the LokJanshakti Party (LJP) has withdrawn its support after a tussle over seat sharing.
The All India MajlisItteha-dulMuslimeen (AIMIM) has decided to contest the elections in a big way after taking advantage of the fallout of the JDU and the BJP. MIM chief has told party leaders to target Christian, Muslim and Scheduled Tribe voters and concentrate on seats where they have higher chances of winning.
Jharkhand has 28 Scheduled Tribes seats and nine Scheduled Caste Assembly segments and around 20 constituencies where Muslims are predominant and their votes will be the deciding factor.
The JMM, Congress and RJD have announced an alliance and have chosen JMM working PresidentHemantSoren to be the chief ministerial face of their alliance. The Congress will contest 31 out of 81 seats in Jharkhand. The RJD will contest on seven seats, while the largest chunk of the alliance share has gone to the JMM, which will contest on 43 seats.
The JVM-P that is contesting alone, is going to act as a ‘vote-katuwa party’, some believe, owing to the fact that in the 2014 election when it contested alone on 73 seats, it won eight, with a vote share of around eight percent. According to Election Commission data, JVM(P) secured votes ranging from 8,700 to 26,000 in eight ST constituencies where they did not win — much more than the margin of votes of the winning candidates.
Issues plaguing the BJP
Jharkhand is a state with one of the largest Adivasi and forest dweller populations in the country. The BJP has set itself a target of winning 65 seats out of the 81 seats in the Assembly. Apart from not being able to iron out differences with past allies turned adversaries, there are other issues that are making the BJP come unstuck in Jharkhand.
Raghubar Das –The first non-Tribal CM, his unpopularity has reached the ears of both, BJP working president J P Nadda and President Amit Shah. Though Das has kicked off his campaign with “GharGharRaghubar” on the lines of “GharGharModi”, it is being said that the campaign will solely be focused on Modi and Shah, and Das’ face will not be in the foreground. His attempts to amend Chotanagpur and Santhal tenancy acts and ease land acquisition norms have not gone down well with the Adivasi population in the area. Party insiders say he has displayed ‘rough’ behavior with officials and used abusive language at rallies. At a rally, Das erroneously said, “Jharkhand becomes the first state to be tribal free.” He will be contesting from the prime Jamshedpur (E) seat in the upcoming elections.
Criminal cases – BJP talks greatly about morality, but the party’s character has been greatly tarnished with it inducting leaders with criminal cases and allegations of corruption against them. BhanuPratapShahi, who is a candidate from Bhavnathpur, is accused in a Rs. 130 crore medicine scam. The other candidate, ShashiBhushan Mehta, from Panki, is accused of killing a teacher working in his school. PradeepYadav, who was ousted from the JMM on being accused of sexual harassment, may also join the BJP.
Anti-BJP sentiments in Adivasi dominated regions – According to party leaders, the response of the state government at the time of the Pathalgadi movement had damaged the image of the party among the Adivasis. The tribals agitated against the decision of giving away tribal land to corporates. Also, the anti-conversion bill is seen by the tribals as an attempt to break their unity.
Poll issues – The BJP’s Hindutva agenda, it appears, may not work anymore. Jharkhand is in the midst of a socio-economic crisis with the government adopting pro-corporate policies, earmarking common land for commercial purposes without the permission of gram sabhas, there is a threat to the mere life of people because the government wants to link Aadhaar with welfare schemes while ignoring the already available ration cards and NREGA job cards, Jharkhand is slowly becoming the lynching capital of India and the state is plagued with unemployment and farmer distress. Experts say, BJP’s stable term, thumping about the abrogation of Article 370, the Ayodhya verdict – none of these will hold weight against the actual issues plaguing the state.
Vote Division – The failure of forming an alliance is going to affect the BJP’s vote gain. JVM, being a major party, has fielded strong candidates in the elections. The entry of the AIMIM is also going to take away a share of the Muslim votes. Even the AamAadmi Party, who has decided to contest in 25-30 seats will appeal to the secular, lower-middle class voters of Jharkhand.
However, while the situation doesn’t look tilted in BJP’s favour, there are a few things that could propel them to gaining a higher share of seats. Firstly, the lack of a manifesto by the Opposition parties seems to be going against them. The parties have not released a manifesto for the people of Jharkhand and only seem to be working toward refuting and denying the narrative set by the BJP. The second issue that could cost a strong Opposition its share is the problem of ‘infighting’. Though Opposition parties are standing together, the fact that they’re fielding different candidates from the same constituencies is going to lessen their own vote bank.
The question here is, given the dynamics of the present situation, will the BJP go ‘Abkibaar 65 paar’ on its own, or will there be a sudden twist in the tale after the election is over?
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