BJP's downslide continues with Jharkhand defeat

News Bharati    24-Dec-2019   
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With Jharkhand election results the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lost yet another state it had in its kitty since 2014. The BJP's political empire shrank considerably as the party faced defeats in major central Indian states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and now Jharkhand. This is a major setback for the party that had emerged triumphant in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections surpassing its 2014 performance. The party leadership will take the stock of the things and ponder over the factors that led to this defeat. We leave it to the party stalwarts, policymakers, and analysts within the party fold. But certain visible factors need to be discussed here. Maybe, that will explain to a certain extent the phenomenon of the electoral defeat of the BJP.
The BJP polled 33.4 percent votes but won 25 seats. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) polled 35.3 percent votes and pocketed 30 seats; the Congress received 13.9 percent votes and won 16 seats while the All Jharkhand Students' Union (AJSU), an estranged ally of the BJP got 8.2 percent votes and won just 2 seats. Among the other parties the JVM, RJD, and others played their role. The state now most likely be governed by the coalition of JMM and Congress party. We wish all the best for the new government.
In the 2014 election, the BJP had secured 37 seats as compared to 25 in 2019 and this is a big shock for the party leaders and strategists. In the state of 81 assembly seats, the ruling party could get only 25 seats is surely a matter of concern for the state as well as the central party leadership. One of the reasons for this downslide seems to be the steady unrest and dislike for the incumbent chief minister Raghubar Das. His style of functioning was not liked by the party workers and leaders alike in the state.
Jharkhand is a tribal-dominated state with Santhals having the majority percentage in the state population. The BJP chose a Raghubar Das a non-tribal to rule the state in 2014. He had a background of RSS but should that be considered as a requisite qualification for naming him for that post? Did not the party have any prominent tribal leader who could be given that responsibility?
Secondly, the style of functioning of the chief minister also played a role in alienating a majority of workers. The effect of this alienation was visible in this election, sources and analysts have said. Was the party leadership unware of this growing unrest and dislike for the chief minister? If so, then why did it select the same person to lead the party in the state?
In 2014 the BJP had an ally in AJSU. What went wrong that it snapped ties with AJSU in 2019? Congress, on the other hand, decided to play second fiddle to the JMM and is now firmly in the saddle. What stopped the BJP from allying with the AJSU and even LJP?
It is generally inferred that whenever a ruling party bites the dust at the hustings, the main factor is anti-incumbency and in this case, the possibility of this playing the spoilsport for the BJP cannot be ruled out entirely. But that was not the case in Maharashtra where the BJP-Shivsena combine won a definite majority. That, this majority was betrayed by the Shivsena with the crafty politics of NCP leader Sharad Pawar was a different story altogether.
Some local issues cut into the popularity of the BJP in Jharkhand and unfortunately, the state leadership failed to gauge the intensity of that undercurrent and take corrective measures well in time. Rising unemployment, law and order situation, lynching cases and absence of strict action to curb them, and controversy surrounding the land tenancy act in the tribal dominant regions are some of the factors that caused the Das Government most dearly in this elections.
In all these elections, the state BJP had confidence that the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will safely sail their government through these turbulences of unrest and personality likes and dislikes. The national leadership too was basking in the glory of their achievements in respect of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, abolishing instant triple talaq, resolving Ayodhya issue and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act in the parliament.
No doubt, these are the most vital and long-pending issues that required special attention and remedy. But these national issues have a very little or negligible effect in the elections of the state assembly like that of Jharkhand. Here the local issues dominate the most and it appears that the party leadership has either miserably failed to address those or even if they did they lacked the expertise in widely publicizing them.
Jharkhand has a sizeable Muslim and Christian population too. The controversial NRC and CAA have also played their role in delineating a sizeable section of the voters from the BJP. The intention of CAA is good but it is projected most adversely by the non-BJP opposition and its media partners completely topsyturvy its intention and instilling a sort of fear amongst the members of these minority communities. This might have further distanced the voters from the party.
Given the post-poll scenarios in all these northern states and western state of Rajasthan where the BJP faired not so badly but failed to consolidate its grip on the state apparatus, the party must ponder over the reasons, identify its lacuna, weaknesses and take corrective measures. The coming year will put the BJP to still more trying tests in Bengal and Delhi NCR. Though the party has its popularity graph rising upward in Bengal due to apparent communal polarisation, in Delhi the situation is still favoring the AAP and incumbent chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The opposition is buoyed with their strategy of isolating the BJP by aligning with regional parties, even at the cost of losing their national character. The Congress did in Maharashtra and trying its luck in the state of Jharkhand. Therefore, the party must take these results very seriously and plan its strategy accordingly. Victory in Bengal and Delhi is a must to bolster the sagging morale of the party activists. The BJP is the largest party with over 13 crore membership but that should not remain a mere record created by missed call registration.