JMM-Congress-RJD alliance wins Jharkhand polls

The alliance rides a Chhattisgarh-like tribal backlash as the BJP falters on many political fronts, writes Mudit Mathur

Jharkhand has become the fifth state that slipped out of the hands of BJP in the past one year. There sounding victory of JMM-Congress-RJD alliance in the hotly contested prestigious assembly elections of the state, the new leader Hemant Soren has become rallying point of state polity. The outcome of five-phased election gave loud and clear message that the issues related to governance sidetracked national issues like NRC-CAA or Ram Mandir to fetch votes for them despite highly volatile campaigning led by BJP strategists.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance won 47 seats in 81-member Assembly. JMM won 30 seats, Congress 16 and Rashtriya Janata Dal one seat. The alliance defeated BJP that could win 25 seats. The debacle has been hard to digest for the BJP whose sitting Chief Minister Raghubar Das suffered humiliating defeat with a margin of 15,833 votes. The state voted PM Narendra Modi to power with thumping majority just six months back. Earlier Raghubar Das had won the seat with a margin of 70,000 votes in 2014. It can conclusively observe that the BJP government in the state suffered crippling anti-incumbency.

The victory has boosted the morale of the Opposition camp. Hemant Soren, is all set to be the next chief minister, who won from both seats he contested Dumkaand Barhait whereas BJP face and chief minister Raghubar Das lost to party rebel Saryu Rai from his traditional Jamshedpur East seat by over 15,000 votes. The state Governor Draupadi Murmu asked Raghubar Das to continue as caretaker chief minister until formation of a new government who resigned in wake of election defeat.

The state witnessed a five-phased assembly election that concluded on December 20. JMM chief Shibu Soren said the alliance partners will meet soon to decide the next course of action. The alliance is likely to have a common minimum programme of governance.

Political observers say if we have to go by what the Jharkhand state assembly election results are saying, the state has voted against anti-incumbency and ousted the BJP despite the rhetoric that came from star campaigners like Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath. They have extensively campaigned and addressed series of meetings with aggressively charged Hindutva passions. Jharkhand is the third state after Haryana and Maharashtra where Modi magic hasfailed to bring fruits for the BJP unlike the general elections this year.

The BJP campaign in the last three phases of the polls, its leaders had raised concerns about the amendments in citizenship and the NRC in its election rallies. The final three-phase poll results show that the BJP lost five seats about 23 per cent of its seats compared to the previous Assembly election. The opposition leaders has felt that the BJP is paying the cost of an aggressive campaign on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has resulted in its poor show in the Jharkhand Assembly elections.

The last three-phases of voting held in Jharkhand amid nationwide protests against the NRC and the CAA. On December 12, 16 and 20, polls took place in 43 constituencies out of the total 81 seats in the state. The result tally shows that the BJP won 17 seats followed by the JMM (11) and Congress (9), while the AJSU, a former election ally of the BJP, got two seats in the last three phases.

The JMM founder Shibu Soren emerged as an unchallenged leader of tribal people after theiruprising against exploitative “Mahajani Pratha” (Practice of money lending at exorbitant rates) and oppression. Later he became sole beneficiary of the battle for a separate state of Jharkhand. Allies Congress and RJD brought the disquiet obsessed minority vote as the BJP pitched up issues of CAA, NRC, Article 370 and Ram Mandirin its aggressive poll campaign.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “I thank the people of Jharkhand for having given BJP the opportunity to serve the state for many years.” “I also applaud the hardworking Party Karyakartas for their efforts.We will continue serving the state and raising people-centric issues in the times to come,” Modi promised. He also congratulated Soren on his historic victory.

Reacting to the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance’s victory in Jharkhand assembly polls, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said, “People have defeated BJP’s attempts to divide the society on caste and religious lines.”

“The victory is special and of extreme contemporary importance. Thepeople of Jharkhand deserve special gratitude and congratulations for summarily defeating the BJP and its divisive agenda,” she remarked.

The JMM leader Hemant Soren thanked the people of Jharkhand for the mandate. “Thank Lalu, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka for fighting in alliance and reposing trust in me,” Soren added. This time Soren organised his campaign professionally as alow key affair but strong presence on social media. Besides the Sangharsh Yatra, his team organised RatriChaupals (night halt meetings) with the public across the state. A separate Yuva Samvad campaign was also launched to reach out to the youth.

The Lok Sabha defeat forced Soren and his team to change their strategy drastically. Soren’s speeches and interactions focused on solutions to specific problems faced by people that developed his image of a matured leader. Soren stressed on these points throughout his state-wide “Badlav Yatra” that took place from the end of August to October and culminated in the rally in Ranchi on 19 October.

Soren promised reservation for locals in jobs that had a direct connect with the youth, especially as unemployment was the biggest issue in the polls, a trend brought out by every pre-election survey that took place in Jharkhand. His campaign theme centralized on tagline “Jharkhand Maange Yuva Sarkar, Jharkhandi Sarkar.”  Sentimentally designed campaign had touched the broader sentiments of the youth of Jharkhand, cutting across community lines paving its way to success. Jharkhand has many challenges being a backward state and Soren will have to keepmany expectations as a chief minister.