The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) led alliance has secured a clear majority in the Jharkhand assembly. The JMM has recorded its best ever performance and emerged as the single largest party with 29 MLAs.
Roshan Kishore
Roshan Kishore

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) led alliance has secured a clear majority in the Jharkhand assembly. The JMM has recorded its best ever performance and emerged as the single largest party with 29 MLAs. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) loss; its tally has come down from 37 MLAs in 2014 to 27, can be attributed to three cascading factors.

The first is the general trend of the BJP performing relatively badly in local elections compared to national elections. This trend was accentuated in Jharkhand due to a strong anti-incumbency against the state government. This is evident from the chief minister Raghubar Das himself losing the elections. The third and perhaps the most decisive factor is the opposition’s ability to achieve a massive consolidation of Scheduled Tribe (ST) voters without antagonising the non-ST population. By getting a non-ST chief minister in a state with 26% ST population, the BJP had been hoping that any ST consolidation would lead to a reverse polarisation as well.

National versus Local

Jharkhand results are in keeping with the trend of voters differentiating between national and local elections. The BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) swept the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha, winning 63 out of the 81 assembly constituencies (ACs) in the state. The BJP alone won 57 ACs in 2019 Lok Sabha, which has halved in the assembly elections. This is the same pattern which unfolded in Maharashtra and Haryana, except, the magnitude of shift against the BJP between a national and local election is much bigger.

Strong anti-incumbency in the state

Why has the BJP fared worse in Jharkhand than Haryana and Maharashtra? This question has become much easier to answer after Ragubar Das, the BJP chief minister in the state, has himself lost his Jamshedpur East seat. Das has lost to Saryu Rai, a BJP veteran, who was denied a ticket and expelled from the party. The BJP state president Laxman Giluwa, too has lost his election in Chakradharpur.

decoding, jharkhand vote, All India statewise party positions

Two most important state level leaders of the BJP losing their seats shows the magnitude of anti-incumbency in Jharkhand. To be sure, this anti-incumbency is not entirely surprising. The CSDS-Lokniti post-poll survey during the 2019 Lok Sabha has highlighted the fact that voters had a significantly poorer opinion of the BJP state government compared to the central government. That the BJP decided to have Das as the chief minister face, even at the cost of antagonising its own leaders such as Rai, only seems to have added to the state-level anti-incumbency. The All Jharkhand Students Union, which was an alliance partner of the BJP, walked out of the alliance just before the elections, adding to the discontent against the BJP in the state.

JMM consolidated STs without antagonising non-STs

When the BJP decided that Raghubar Das would be the chief minister or Jharkhand in 2014, he was the first non-ST person to hold that post since the state was carved out of Bihar in November 2000. Das’s electoral loss and the JMM, a party with a predominant ST base, recording its best ever performance in the state could lead to an inference that it is ST anger which did the BJP in. However, the BJP has also fared badly in general and SC reserved seats compared to the 2014 assembly elections. The JMM, on the other hand has improved its performance in general, SC reserved and ST reserved seats. The biggest gains for the JMM alliance have come in the ST reserve seats, with the JMM and Congress winning 25 out of 28 ST seats. This shows that the ST versus non-ST contradiction in the state has been muted in these elections.

(Courtesty Hindustan times)