Editorial

Jharkhand signals: On Assembly election results

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BJP lost because of its inability to recognise livelihood issues and regional aspirations

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s defeat in Jharkhand at the hands of the Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance, seven months after it won 51.6% votes in the Lok Sabha election, follows a now-familiar pattern. The BJP does much better in Lok Sabha elections than in Assembly elections if one goes by the outcomes in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Haryana over the last year. Jharkhand, like Maharashtra, is also an example of the increasing distrust between the BJP and allies. The BJP’s ally, All Jharkhand Students Union, parted ways with it following the Lok Sabha election, contributing to its defeat. Its unyielding approach towards allies has a certain appeal, but many communities and interest groups find it as hubris, for good reasons. Conflicting demands of social groups are easier to overcome for the BJP when it manages to place itself as the sole torch-bearer of national interest and pride in Parliament elections. Nationalist bluster has limited appeal in State elections, and questions of livelihood and ethnic autonomy significantly influence voter choices, it appears. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and rhetorical flourish may still win elections for himself, but State elections have different dynamics. In Jharkhand, outgoing Chief Minister Raghubar Das’s unpopularity made the BJP’s downfall quite predictable. Mr. Modi tried to make up for the governance deficiency by making communal appeals during the campaign. He insinuated that only Muslims were behind the violence in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The BJP bit the dust nevertheless.

Mr. Das, the first non-tribal CM of the State that was formed with the objective of accelerating welfare for indigenous communities, ran a government that only strengthened the perception that the BJP had little sympathy for them. Simultaneously, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar also sought to deepen religious fault lines in the State, between Christian and non-Christian tribals on the one hand, and against Muslims in the name of cow protection on the other. The State witnessed some abhorrent incidents of mob lynching under the BJP. To top it all, the BJP failed to keep its own house in order. Long-time party loyalist Saryu Rai resigned from the party and defeated Mr. Das. The win is a breather for the Opposition, which is struggling to formulate a nationwide and coherent strategy against the BJP on the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens. But it may not be accurate to interpret the outcome as the sign of any countrywide mood against the BJP. There is no proof yet that the Opposition has gained enough momentum to challenge the BJP’s defining ability to build up mega campaigns on sentimental issues and eclipse material questions and diversity in aspirations.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:30:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/jharkhand-signals-on-assembly-election-results/article30383067.ece

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