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Big Questions: Who will form the next government in Jharkhand?

For BJP, various exit polls predicted anywhere between 45 to 60 seats for the party and its allies in Jharkhand.

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | Ranchi | Updated: December 23, 2014 2:15:09 pm
Voters in Dumka on Saturday. (Source: Express photo by Manas Chaudhary) Voters in Dumka on Saturday. (Source: Express photo by Manas Chaudhary)

Is the BJP about to form a government in Jharkhand?

According to at 1 PM, No. The BJP leads in only 36 seats and its ally AJSU Party – which contested from eight – is leading in four. The alliance needs 41 seats in Jharkhand, which has an assembly with a strength of 81.

However, all hope is not lost. There are a few seats where the lead of the BJP’s opponents continue to be less than a thousand votes: Bermo, Chattarpur, Gomia and Jama. This is apart from seats where votes from booths that are possible BJP strongholds have not yet been counted.

Even then, the BJP has not performed as well as it thought it would. Various exit polls predicted anywhere between 45 to 60 seats for the party and its allies in Jharkhand; Tuesday’s final tally looks to fall far short of that.

Therefore, the BJP – easily the single largest party – could have the numbers required to form the government come the end of the day, but it may not be comfortable with it, considering Jharkhand’s history with fickle legislators.

Jharkhand election results LIVE: BJP nears halfway mark, CM Hemant Soren ahead in one seat

Why is the BJP not doing well as everyone thought it would?

Precise answers may emerge only after the final tally is out, but the primary reason to be the JMM’s strong performance. Led by Hemant Soren, the JMM is on course to actually improve on its 2009 status of 18 legislators: it is has either won it is leading in 20 seats.

Another reason why the BJP is struggling to touch 41 seats is because Babulal Marandi’s JVM-P is doing particularly well, given the conditions. Marandi, who managed to get 11 legislators elected in 2009, went into these elections with only three after a series of defections, of which seven were to the BJP. However, the JVM seems to have clawed back from the abyss by smart – and sometimes desperate – choice of candidates. The BJP was hoping to win the seats JVM would shed; that has not happened yet.

The BJP has also been put in a difficult position by the AJSU Party’s poor performance. Again, one has to weigh in the circumstances on this: the AJSU, which had six legislators, chose to contest only eight seats in an alliance with the BJP. The result is that it has come back with only four leads as of now. AJSU chief Sudesh Mahto has been trailing in Silli.

Finally, it looks like the BJP – despite at least doubling its tally from 18 to 36 – simply could not penetrate certain strongholds. The RJD and certain regional satraps are resisting it in the Palamu division, the JMM seems to have largely managed to hold on to the Santhal Pargana and the Jharkhand Party is refusing to go down without a fight in Khunti and Simdega. In fact, early indications are that the JMM has made a comeback into its previous stronghold, the Kolhan division – the party’s candidates were leading in Potka, Chaibasa, Chakradharpur and Kharsawan – where the BJP was hoping to make major gains.

What has the JMM done right?

Prima facie, it looks like the JMM’s emotional strategy of threatening the tribals that the Modi government was set to take away their land rights has worked. There seems to be an adivasi backlash against the BJP, with the JMM largely holding on to the Santhal Pargana and even returning to Kolhan. In fact, even potential CM Arjun Munda could be a victim of this backlash, in Kharsawan – he is trailing by about 12,000 votes.

In addition to Kharsawan, the BJP is struggling to retain its Majhgaon, Chakradharpur, Potka and Manoharpur sitting seats in a JMM wave of sorts in the Kolhan. Clearly, the adivasis have listened to Hemant Soren and the JMM telling them that the BJP was about to amend the state’s two tenancy laws – the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act – which give the adivasis significant land rights.

The BJP’s message of stable government seems to have been detrailed by JMM’s attempt at identity politics here: it is fair to say the BJP did not understand Jharkhand as it thought it did.

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