results on Monday delivered a morale-boosting victory for the opposition with the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance winning a comfortable majority of 47 seats in a House of 81, and another state slipping out of BJP’s hands after its big sweep in the Lok Sabha elections that returned Prime Minister
to a record second term.
of JMM is set to take over as chief minister, returning to the job he held for a year before BJP won in 2015. The oath ceremony will take place on Thursday.
BJP slipped to 25 seats from 37 it held in 2014, its decision to contest alone after failed negotiations with regional ally AJSU Party backfiring and the party ceding the status of “single-largest party” for the first time. The contrast to the sweep in the LS elections — BJP won 11 and AJSU one of Jharkhand’s 14 seats — a little over six months ago was astonishing.
Till late in the evening, the JMM-led alliance had 47 out of 81 seats. While JMM had 30 seats, Congress had 16 and RJD one. JMM and Congress posted their best-ever shows. Soren, the working president of JMM, won from Dumka and Barhait seats in the tribal heartland of Santhal Pargana.
The saffron loss seems to be the fallout of several factors. The break with AJSU Party may have proved critical as the vote share of the two parties — BJP (33%) and AJSU (8%) — suggests that they could have made a fight of it if the alliance had held. Incumbency woes returned to haunt BJP with chief minister Raghubar Das losing his own Jamshedpur East seat to BJP rebel Saryu Roy by a margin of over 15,000 votes.
The nullification of
verdict and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act could not give BJP an edge. Besides Das, BJP state president Laxman Gilua too lost his seat. If the CM suffered from an image problem, his upper hand in government and party also had a negative fallout. The sidelining of rivals led to a dependence on Das and though BJP did not totally lose the development narrative, the lack of a regional ally and the coalescing of tribal sentiment behind the JMM-led alliance proved too strong to overcome.
Tenancy act might have alienated tribal votersComing on the heels of the unexpected post-poll loss in Maharashtra, the Jharkhand result means that BJP is out of office in another important state.
After its Lok Sabha win, BJP has found the going tough in elections in states where it has been the incumbent, holding on to power in Haryana with the help of Dushyant Chautala’s JJP. In Maharashtra, BJP underperformed in terms of exit poll projections even though it won comfortably in alliance with the Shiv Sena only to face the desertion of its saffron twin.
The seeming alienation of the tribal vote, accentuated by the split with the OBC-driven AJSU Party, appears to be a fallout of the misfired attempt to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act. While the intent was to give tribals greater say in disposal of their lands, it was read as an anti-tribal move. JMM and Congress shrewdly exploited this perception and turned a key voter segment towards them.
The Jharkhand result saw the opposition claim that BJP’s decision to raise “divisive” issues like CAA and a nationwide NRC has backfired. How such issues can play out in a national election cannot be easily determined, but in the immediate context, they failed to make up for incumbency and a ruptured alliance. BJP’s failure has provided an opportunity for Congress and other opposition parties to argue that there is a space for an anti-BJP narrative and smart alliances can work.
For the opposition, the key was the smooth manner in which seat-sharing was arrived at with Congress willingly accepting the junior partner’s slot. After some bargaining, Congress also agreed on projecting Hemant Soren as the alliance’s CM face. The alliance that had done so poorly in the Lok Sabha elections — even JMM’s pater familias
lost — bounced back with surprising vigour, taking on BJP and its heavyweight campaigners, PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.
While BJP’s use of “national issues”, articulated by Modi and Shah, has been questioned in the light of the results, there is a school of thought in the party that its numbers might have dipped even more if the party had gone local.