Jharkhand: Riding on LS results, BJP emerging strong contender

The BJP succeeded in establishing its lead in Jharkhand in the parliamentary election of 2014 by winning 12 of the 14 seats; all on its own, without any political ally.

Its popularity did not seem to have receded even after the election. Lured by it, many of the politicians from other parties changed their loyalty and joined BJP.

A string of former bureaucrats – some of whom had taken voluntary retirement recently for this purpose – joined the party.

They did so with the hope that it will ensure their victory in the ensuing assembly election and bring acche din (good days) in Jharkhand, a state suffering from political instability, bureaucratic inaction and slow development.

Change in loyalty of the politicians resulted in an increase in the number of winnable candidates with BJP on the one hand, and created a problem in selection of such candidates for many of the small political parties on the other.

The parties opposed to the BJP are in a disarray and have failed to form a combined front. The Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which are partners in the present government, failed to forge an alliance following which the JMM decided to field its candidates on all the 81 constituencies.

The Congress has decided to fight election in alliance with RJD and JD (U). The Trinmool Congress of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, which has created a small base in the state with the joining of Bandhu Tirkey, the Mander MLA, succeeded in forging alliance with Babulal Marandi’s JVM (P). But, neither of the two coalitions is expected to consolidate the anti-BJP vote bank.

The local BJP unit, encouraged by the outcome of the parliamentary election, the favourable media reports and by the expansion in its ranks and files, wanted to contest this election on its own.

The central leadership of the party, against the desire and protest of its local unit, however, decided to contest election in alliance with its long term ally in the state, All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) and its alliance partner at the Centre, the LJP of dalit Ramvilas Paswan of the neighbouring Bihar.

The BJP’s aim is to form a long term formidable political alliance in the state and to dominate the state politics through this alliance.

Through AJSU, it has made an attempt to expand its support base among the numerically strong Mahato community and through LJP, among the scheduled caste. The AJSU and LJP were more than willing for this alliance as they saw it as an opportunity to participate in the governance of the state.

The LJP, which earlier had no presence in the state, was given one seat and AJSU agreed to reduce its demand for seat sharing and be content with eight seats.   

Party hopping

This election, once again, has shown to the world that the politics and politicians in the state, barring a few exceptions, are guided more by opportunism than by ideology.

The opportunity-based loyalty switching, which had started much before the declaration of assembly election, saw another round  after alliance partners, seat sharing and ticket distribution were finalised.

The sitting MLA of Hatia constituency, Naveen Jaiswal of AJSU, who was denied the ticket as it went to the BJP under the alliance, joined JVM (P) from which he is  contesting.

Similarly, Amit Mahato of BJP joined JMM as he wanted to contest from Silli constituency, which ultimately went to AJSU under the alliance. Dulal Bhuian, shifted his loyalty thrice for the sake of contesting election – from JVM (P) to BJP, then to JMM and finally to Congress which gave him ticket for Jugsalai constituency.

The sitting MLA of Tamar constituency, Raja Peter, who had just joined BJP from JD (U), left it when he was denied ticket for this constituency as the seat went to AJSU, the alliance partner of BJP. More than a dozen sitting MLAs and a large number of political activists have shifted sides so far. 

The alliance with the AJSU and the LJP is not going to expand the support base of the BJP as the influence of AJSU is confined to some of the constituencies only and LJP does not have a significant base in the state.

On the other hand, it is going to lose some of its seats as some of its winnable candidates, dissatisfied with seat sharing and ticket distribution, have changed sides.

But even then, the BJP along with its alliance is expected to get a majority.  There are four reasons to expect that the prospect for BJP is bright in this election.

An anti-incumbency factor will come into play as the incumbent government could not bring much change in the state.

Secondly, the desire among the people for a stable government, as they are convinced that the poor performance of the earlier governments was mainly because of the political instability. This stability, people of the state feel, can be ensured only by the BJP along with its allies.

Thirdly, a large section of the people feels that the state can make good progress if the government at both the Centre and the state belong to the same party.

And lastly, the divided opposition has made the prospect of the BJP still better as they are going to divide the anti-BJP votes. 

(The Ranchi-based writer teaches at St Xavier’s College and is Honorary Director of Institute for Human Development, Eastern Regional Centre)

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