Here, BJP needs a lot besides Modi

A jawan keeps vigil while people stand in queue at a polling station at Gobindpur.PTI A jawan keeps vigil while people stand in queue at a polling station at Gobindpur. PTI

The three-phased voting in Jharkhand came to a close Thursday with the BJP confident about all 14 seats. It had won 12 seats in 1996 and 1998, and eight in 2009, and retains seven now. State leaders attribute the projected sweep to a “Modi wave”, a presumption that is significant because of the Adivasis, who make up 26.2 per cent of the population.


Have the Adivasis voted for Narendra Modi? Even the state BJP answers in the negative. Khunti, which has the maximum proportion at 73.3 per cent, might elect the BJP’s Kariya Munda, but its voters have done so seven times already.

A “wave” can be substantiated if the party wins in areas where it has traditionally struggled. Dumka is a JMM stronghold and Rajmahal a Congress one, both in the Santhal Pargana region. The BJP claims padhe-likhe Santhalis will vote for Modi; the JVM(P) claims the same group will vote for Babulal Marandi. Either way, a new votebank — identified as the tribal middle class by anthropologists — is up for grabs.

In both seats, the BJP depends on extraneous factors. In Dumka, there is the hope that Sunil Soren, who lost narrowly to Shibu Soren in 2009, will win when Babulal Marandi splits the JMM’s Santhal-Muslim votebank. The BJP hopes to retain the diku (outisder, caste Hindu) vote and that Marandi will not eat into it. In Rajmahal, with a significant number of Muslims, the party hopes the RSS’s 20-odd years of work has “Sanskritised” the Santhals enough to split the JMM votebank. Here, Modi could act as a catalyst in bringing over this group to vote along with dikus, their former exploiters.


In Chatra, a district where 32.6 per cent of the population are Scheduled Castes, this reporter could not find any Dalit at the March 27 Modi rally among the 20-odd he spoke to. No party except the CPI-ML counts the Dalits, 12.1 per cent, as a votebank. While there seemed to be an upper caste-OBC Modi wave in Chatra, the CPI-ML is reportedly giving the BJP sweaty palms in Koderma, a district where one per cent are Adivasis and 15.2 per cent Dalits.


To the question “why will you vote”, an intriguing answer came from Ashraful Haque at Pakur district’s Rahaspur village. “Some Muslims here might have voted for the BJP, because only local BJP leaders help us when we go to them with our problems. Not this time. We don’t want our votes to help Modi. We are scared,” he said.

This fear was used by the Congress’s Ranchi candidate Subodh Kant Sahay, who called a meeting of Muslim mohalla leaders and managed to get an assurance of votes. This despite Muslims being angry with Sahay, who has done little for evicted residents of an encroachment …continued »