JMM-led alliance thumps BJP in Jharkhand

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NEW DELHI: The JMM-led three-party alliance stormed to power in Jharkhand on Monday, ousting the BJP in yet another state in the Hindi heartland after the saffron party’s stupendous performance in the Lok Sabha elections, a development that could have profound implications for the country.

The Raghubar Das government’s feat of providing a stable government that lasted a full five-year term in a state where chief ministers changed faster than seasons did not cut ice with the electorate which decided to repose faith in a coalition that fought over seats and broke up five years ago.

Contesting the state assembly elections alone for the first time sans long-standing ally the AJSU Party, the ruling BJP bagged 25 seats, five less than the JMM which led the table, clinching 30 in the 81-member House. On the Other, JMM’s partner bagged 16 seats.

Das tendered his resignation and accepted defeat.

“I met Governor Droupadi Murmu and submitted my resignation. The governor asked me to be caretaker CM till the new government is formed,” he told reporters outside Raj Bhavan, with defeat staring him in the face in his pocket borough of Jamshedpur (East) seat.

Saryu Roy, his suave opponent, a BJP rebel contesting as an Independent, clinched his seat. Roy, a former state minister, had thrown his hat into the ring after being denied a ticket to contest the adjoining Jamshedpur (west) seat.

The BJP, which had posted a spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha election in the middle of the year, was yet to score a convincing triumph in an assembly election since.

In the two assembly elections held after the Lok Sabha polls, the party failed to win a clear majority in Haryana, where it had to ally with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party to cobble together a government.

The BJP emerged as the single largest party in Maharashtra where it fought the polls together with its oldest ally Shiv Sena.

The two together could have easily formed a government which may have lasted for five years, but irreconcilable differences between the two Hindutva parties saw the Shiv Sena do the unthinkable–align with the Congress and its offshoot NCP–and form a government.

The Devendra Fadnavis government of the BJP, propped up by the perceived support from Ajit Pawar, a nephew of NCP boss Sharad Pawar, lasted barely three days. A recalcitrant Ajit Pawar got spooked by the enormous clout of his uncle, who mustered almost all party MLAs in support of a Shiv Sena governent led by Uddhav Thackeray, and made a meek return home.

In the process, the BJP lost an ally in Shiv Sena.

The poll outcome has endorsed Hemant Soren, the JMM’s working president, as not only the inheritor of his father Shibu Soren’s legacy as the foremost tribal leader of the state, but also expressly manifested the electorate’s backing for an adivasi at the helm of the state’s affairs.

Raghubar Das, despite having steered the state out of the naxalite menace and providing the most stable government in nearly two decades of Jharkhand’s existence, was a backward class leader.

The last two phases of the five-stage polling in Jharkhand were held after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had made a strong pitch in its support.

However, the state, with a substantial Muslim population, seemed to have rejected the CAA as also the idea of a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC). A spate of incidents of lynching of Muslims over suspicion of cattle theft is likely to have caused a polarisation of Muslim votes against the current dispensation that went against the BJP.

Moreover, the BJP’s failure to carry forward its alliance with Sudesh Mahato’s AJSU Party also appeared to have cost it dearly. Mahatos are a sub-caste of OBC Kurmis, which have a significant presence in both Bihar and Jharkhand.

Their alienation had a compounding effect as the JD (U), the BJP’s partner in Bihar’s ruling coalition, contested assembly elections in Jharkhand independently. This might have dented the BJP’s OBC vote bank. JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar is a Kurmi by caste. The JD(U) failed to open its account.

Source: Press Trust of India