With the below-expectation election results in Haryana and Maharashtra, the ruling BJP is treading cautiously in Jharkhand, where elections will be held in five phases from November 30. Sources said the BJP will be careful in its ticket distribution and campaign strategy, despite the morale boost it received with a number of opposition MLAs joining the party.
Like in Haryana and Maharashtra, the BJP leadership has assessed that the Opposition’s failure to come up with a formidable alternative, the goodwill created by populist measures of the Raghubar Das government and the surge in the wake of its spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha elections would prove advantageous to the BJP in Jharkhand, too. However, the October 21 election verdicts seem to have prompted the party to review its strategies for the polls to the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly.
Sources pointed out that the BJP had never won a simple majority on its own in the state —formed in 2000 — hence, setting a tall tally as a target was not on the cards. “The BJP will work hard to ensure that we retain power, and if we get a simple majority on our own it will be a big achievement,” said a party leader from Jharkhand. The source added that a cohesive Opposition alliance between the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Congress could pose a challenge. He pointed out that the Opposition could not project a credible alliance in the Lok Sabha polls as there was confusion till the last minute.
In 2014, the BJP won 37 seats in Jharkhand and formed the government after cobbling up an alliance with All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), which won five seats. The coalition won 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general election.
The recent Assembly results have underlined that the electorate may behave differently for national elections and state elections. For Jharkhand, sources said the situation was not rosy for the BJP as the Lok Sabha poll results would suggest. In fact, they said, Chief Minister Raghubar Das’s tactics to rally the non-tribal support base could be counter-productive for the party. The party’s performance in tribal areas of Maharashtra were also a warning to the leadership, said a leader.
According to sources, the top leadership has received feedback from the state in-charge that tribals and minorities — Muslims and Christians together form around 20 per cent of the population — could consolidate against the BJP, if there is a formidable Opposition coalition in the electoral scene. Tribals form more than 26 per cent of the population.
The sources also said that populist measures, such as Rs 5,000 per acre to 22.76 lakh medium and marginal farmers, have built tremendous goodwill for the chief minister.
BJP president Amit Shah appointed O P Mathur as election in-charge for Jharkhand months earlier, but the poll results in Maharashtra — where the BJP is relying heavily on its partner Shiv Sena to form the government — and Haryana — where it had to stitch a post-poll alliance with newly formed Jannayak Janata Party as it could not cross the halfway mark — could lead the BJP to recalibrate its strategy and regroup.
Even as leaders like BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya have pointed out the the BJP could have performed better if the organisation had done effective micromanagement on the ground, O P Mathur, the party’s election in-charge for Jharkhand, and Saudan Singh, party joint general secretary in-charge, have been working overtime to calm the waters. Singh is learnt to have interacted with influential party workers from all 81 Assembly segments of the state to effect corrective measures. Mathur has been holding organisational meetings. According to sources, Singh briefed the leadership about the political challenges in the state during a meeting of general secretaries held by BJP working president J P Nadda last month.