Jharkhand polls: Can a grand alliance topple BJP?

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha president Hemant Soren (L), Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das (C) and Congress President Sonia Gandhi (R)

As Jharkhand gears up for state elections, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) President Babulal Marandi seems to have moved on from its grand alliance with the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) for the time being.

The highly anticipated merger in April and May preceding the Lok Sabha polls reached a roadblock when Marandi claimed that the Opposition parties did not show interest in talks proposed by him, rendering it too late to form an alliance now. However, elections in India have seen their fair share of U-turns and an alliance coming into place right before the commencement of voting may not pose much of a surprise.

The grand alliance of the Opposition faced a crushing defeat to Modi's saffron wave in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by securing a meagre two seats while the BJP won 12. Although it is true that the JVM (P) could not have done nearly enough to oust the BJP on its own accord, it is also evident that they have not accomplished much in the past despite merging with the Opposition parties.

The Assembly elections in Jharkhand are scheduled to take place in five phases (November 30, December 7, 12, 16, 20) until the final count for the 81 seats on December 23. Here is a look at how the Opposition has fared against the BJP in the past Assembly elections - with or without each other.

Jharkhand was formed in 2000 when it was announced as India's 28th state after separating from Bihar. Since then, it has witnessed three Assembly elections -- in 2005, 2009, and 2014. While the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has maintained a firm hold over the state throughout, it had faltered once in the 2009 Assembly polls when the JMM truly emerged as a force to reckon with. The JMM had extensively campaigned for Jharkhand's statehood prior to 2000.

The 2005 state elections witnessed a BJP victory with 30 seats, followed by the JMM and Congress winning 17 and nine seats, respectively. In 2007, the JMM and the BJP were tied at 18 seats resulting from a weakened BJP, while the Congress managed to secure 14 seats, improving its previous tally. The 2014 Assembly results paved the path for BJP dominance as it won 37 out of the 81 seats, leaving the JMM and the Congress with 19 and 6, respectively.

If history is any indicator, the Opposition has a slightly better shot at toppling the NDA by merging forces than standing divided. Contesting separately could reduce their vote share and chance at removing incumbent Chief Minister Raghubar Das significantly. 

Das announced the commencement of his Rs 811-crore piped gas project for the 'Steel City' right before the Model Code of Conduct came into force. The Opposition needs to make a cohesive move to prove their competence to the voters, and fast.

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