Bumpy road ahead for BJP in Jharkhand?

Union Home Minister Amit Shah. (PTI file photo)

It’s very rare that BJP president Amit Shah gets angry or reprimands his own candidate in public. But in Jharkhand’s Garwah, the Union Home Minister could not hide his annoyance over the thin crowd at his rally.

Shah warned the BJP candidate Satyendra Nath Tiwary: “The mere presence of around 15,000 persons at this rally won’t make you MLA again. I came to Garwah in 2014 also. That time, there was tremendous enthusiasm among BJP supporters, which is missing this time. Go and ask each of your supporters to make phone calls to at least 50 voters in his/her booth soliciting support. Only then you can win.”

This episode reflects the hardcore reality of a slippery ground for the ruling BJP, which has given Jharkhand the first stable Government (under Raghubar Das) since its inception in 2000.

The first non-tribal Chief Minister, Das, who is himself facing an upheaval task to retain his citadel in Jamshedpur (East), is being challenged by his own ministerial colleague and veteran BJP leader Saryu Rai. Denied ticket by the BJP from Jamshedpur (West), Rai is now contesting from Jamshedpur (East) against Das, who, he believes, was instrumental in denying him (Rai) the ticket.

While Das is fighting a tough battle in his fiefdom in the multi-cornered contest where apart from Rai (the main challenger), he is facing Congress’ Gaurav Ballabh (an XLRI professor, who is now AICC national spokesperson) and Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) nominee Abhay Singh.

No different is the situation for the BJP which is facing challenges in Jharkhand on four major fronts.

First, the BJP, in order to contest more seats in the 81-member House, made its trusted ally AJSU (All Jharkhand Students’ Union) angry and severed its decade-old ties. On the other hand, the rival group, JMM stitched a formidable alliance with the Congress and the RJD. This is in sharp contrast to 2014 Assembly polls, where the BJP and the AJSU contested polls together while the JMM and Congress could not arrive at seat-sharing pact five years ago.

Secondly, Das, though the first CM in Jharkhand to complete a full five-year term, has made more enemies than friends. And the ‘enemy within’ the BJP have silently ganged up against him and have been talking about how this first non-tribal CM had upstaged the potential tribal chief ministerial candidates in 2014 and “2019 was the time to pay back Das in the same coin”.

Third, Rai, the rebel BJP candidate, has confined Das to his constituency by making the Jamshedpur battle a “prestige issue.”

“Fourth is the anti-incumbency factor, heavily loaded against Das” averred a senior journalist here who has covered polls in Jharkhand since 2005.

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