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Indifferent State leadership caused BJP’s Jharkhand loss

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Issues like Ram temple and Article 370 had little appeal

Seven months after winning a landslide victory in the parliamentary election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a humiliating defeat in the Jharkhand Assembly poll. The reasons can be deciphered by analysing the changes that took place in the State between these two elections.

One, the parliamentary election was contested in Jharkhand on the agenda of national security. The people, by and large, voted for the BJP, which had an alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) at that time, as they were convinced that only the BJP could promote national pride and ensure the safety and security of the nation. By the time the State went for Assembly polls, local grievances and demands of the people surfaced, but the BJP failed to realise this. It concentrated instead on issues like Ram mandir, Article 370 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which had little appeal for the Jharkhand voters. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance, on the other hand, succeeded in mobilising the voters by appealing to their local aspirations. True, in its five years at the helm, the BJP had implemented many welfare schemes, with support from the Centre. However, the saffron party failed to mobilise voters on these grounds this time.

An inaccessible Chief Minister

Further Raghubar Das, in his five years as Jharkhand Chief Minister, could not emerge as a very popular leader. He was perceived to be inaccessible and arrogant, a factor that alienated him both from the people of the State and the party workers of the BJP. So, when it came to be voting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the parliamentary election earlier in the year, voters opted for the BJP, but when it came to giving a mandate again to Mr. Das in the Assembly election, they voted against the party.

Two, issues linked to ticket allocation further alienated the BJP’s State leadership from both its workers and voters. While some of the sitting MLAs and popular party workers were denied tickets, some new entrants were given tickets. Many old party loyalists, as a result, either became indifferent or worked against the official candidates, contributing to the poor performance of the party.

Here, one of the worst miscalculations made by the BJP was in denying ticket to senior leader Saryu Rai, who is known for his bold, honest and clean image. Mr. Rai, an old BJP loyalist and Minister in the erstwhile Cabinet, had his differences with Mr. Das because of his bold statements and uncompromising stand on some controversial issues. After having been kept waiting for party ticket for a long time, Mr. Rai contested as an independent and defeated Mr. Das in his home constituency, Jamshedpur (East).

This denial of ticket to Mr. Rai only added to the unpopularity of Mr. Das among party workers. This alienation was reflected in the form of poor booth management by the saffron party’s officials.

On the other hand, while the BJP denied ticket to a leader known for his impeccable reputation, it gave tickets to some new entrants with allegations of corruption against them, dealing a severe blow to the party’s image.

Further, the BJP’s failure to forge an alliance with the AJSU hurt both the parties. The AJSU, whose voter base included the dominant OBC community of Mahtos, got more than 8% vote share, part of which could have helped the BJP in case the two parties had a pre-poll arrangement.

Seat-sharing arrangement

The JMM, the Congress and the RJD, on the other hand had a conflict-free seat sharing arrangement and kept their alliance strong. As a result, while the JMM was able to expand its reach, the Congress also improved its tally.

The results of the Assembly election could have some long-term implications for the State. Jharkhand, since its formation in 2000, has always been ruled by an alliance, usually post-poll coalitions of political parties and independents. But for the last government, none of the regimes could complete their full five-year terms. The winning alliance this time can possibly learn from history and provide stability. It should also try to address the unfulfilled demands and aspirations of the people. The most important challenge for the government will be to mobilise resources and to prepare a macro plan for their proper utilisation.

On its part, the BJP will need to analyse the reasons for its failures and strengthen its organisation at the grass-roots in the State.

Harishwar Dayal is a faculty member in St. Xavier's college, Ranchi

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 4:54:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/indifferent-state-leadership-caused-bjps-jharkhand-loss/article30397633.ece

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