Every time Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to Jharkhand to campaign for his party nominees, he would harp on Ram Mandir, Article 370, triple talaq, NRC, Citizenship bill and other emotive issues.
These national issues hardly appealed to Jharkhand voters who in private would discuss how job loss, growing unemployment, mob lynching incidents, corruption in Raghubar Das Government and amendment in the Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act mattered more for them.
“Hamey Article 370 se kya? Naukri mil jayega? How does it matter whether a temple is constructed or not when thousands of people have been rendered jobless after more than 700 small and big industries were closed down in Jharkhand,” one voter asked DH Correspondent.
The anger against the BJP Government was quite palpable. But the ruling party failed to read it.
Other than the job loss, the second most important issue was tribals versus non-tribals. The Modi-Shah duo gambled when the BJP appointed a non-tribal like Raghubar Das (who is an OBC, originally from Chhattisgarh) as Chief Minister of Jharkhand in December 2014. Ever since the State was formed in November 2000, it had seen only tribals as the CM. And it was quite natural too, as the State has around 28 per cent Scheduled Tribes (ST) population and around 32 per cent Assembly seats reserved for STs. But Raghubar Das erred in 2016. He proposed an amendment to Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act so that the lands of tribals could be used for non-agricultural purposes like building roads, canals, hospitals, power stations and other government purposes.
This sowed the seed of deep resentment and anger amongst the numerically-strong tribals against a non-tribal Raghubar Das. Regional parties like JMM led the protest against such move and laid the foundation for the ouster of the BJP regime. In 2017, when Raghubar Das invited JMM working president Hemant Soren to attend the global investors' summit, he declined the offer saying: “I can’t attend the ‘maha-chintan shivir’ of land-grabbers.” Hemant’s stocks, thereafter, went several notches up even as the battle-lines were clearly drawn for 2019 Assembly polls.
The third issue which went against the BJP was corruption charges against the State Government. Its own minister Saryu Rai (who till last month was Food and Civil Supplies Minister in Raghubar Das government) complained it to PM Modi about financial irregularities. Rai is one such leader in the BJP whose credibility and integrity can’t be questioned. But the top BJP leadership, instead of addressing Rai’s concern, denied him party ticket and threw him out of the party. “This sent a wrong message to the electorate across the state,” said a Ranchi-based senior journalist of a national news channel.
The fourth factor which contributed in poll debacle of BJP was the arrogance of Raghubar Das. In all these five years when he was at the helm, Das made more enemies than friends. And, in the process, his close kin were charged from land grab to embezzlement of fund. “The CM’s brother-in-law Khemraj Sahu has grabbed the land/house of one Moti Das in Sonari in Jamshedpur,” said Rai, although Das family denied the charge. But such allegations dented Raghubar Das’ image in general and BJP in particular. This was reflected in the poll result too.