Less than seven months after it stormed back to power at the Centre with its highest tally in the Lok Sabha elections, the ruling BJP was swept out of power Monday in Jharkhand by the coalition of the JMM, Congress and RJD led by their chief ministerial candidate and JMM leader Hemant Soren.
For the BJP, the defeat in Jharkhand is the loss of power in the fifth state in a year following the fall of its governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Chief Minister Raghubar Das, who was defeated by BJP rebel Saryu Roy in Jamshedpur East, submitted his resignation letter to Governor Draupadi Murmu as the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance won 47 seats in the House of 81. The BJP managed only 25 seats.
Of the 81 seats, JMM won 30, Congress 16, RJD 1, NCP 1, Independents 2, JVM (P) 3, CPI (M-L) (L) 1, BJP 25 and AJSU 2.
As the results came in, Hemant Soren said all alliance partners will meet to “strategise the future course of action”. He thanked Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his father Shibu Soren. The people of Jharkhand, Soren told reporters, had given a clear majority to the alliance, signalling the “start of a new chapter” which will be “a milestone”. “I promise people of every community that their hopes will not be broken,” he said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a statement, said: “The victory is special and of extreme contemporary importance, and the people of Jharkhand deserve special gratitude and congratulations for summarily defeating the BJP and its divisive agenda. With this mandate, the people have defeated BJP’s attempts to divide the society on caste and religious lines.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Soren on the victory of the alliance. “Congratulations to @HemantSorenJMM Ji and the JMM-led alliance for the victory in the Jharkhand polls. Best wishes to them in serving the state. I thank the people of Jharkhand for having given @BJP4India the opportunity to serve the state for many years. I also applaud the hardworking Party Karyakartas for their efforts. We will continue serving the state and raising people-centric issues in the times to come,” he said on Twitter.
Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah, in a Twitter post, said he respected the mandate of the people of Jharkhand. He too thanked his party workers.
Chief Minister Raghubar Das took the blame for the loss of Jharkhand. “It is not BJP’s defeat, it is my defeat,” he told reporters.
Opinion | Jharkhand portents
For the Opposition phalanx, the victory in Jharkhand, coming as it does after the improved Congress showing in Haryana and the unexpected turn of events in Maharashtra where the BJP eventually lost power, has come as a big boost. The verdict sends out a signal, again, that the image of Prime Minister Modi, despite his popularity, has limitations as a mascot when it comes to state elections.
The BJP has not won a single big state conclusively in the last one year. While the Congress had routed it in Chhattisgarh and defeated it narrowly in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in December 2018, the BJP could not cross the half-way mark in Haryana where it was in power and failed to form the government again in Maharashtra. It suffered humiliating defeats in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh which went to polls with Lok Sabha earlier this year. The big signal — the BJP, as an incumbent in states, struggles to return to power.
The BJP now governs just 35 per cent of the country’s landmass as against over 71 per cent during its peak in 2017 when it was in power in all the heartland states.
The Jharkhand verdict is particularly infuriating for the BJP central leadership because Modi and Shah, like in Haryana and Maharashtra, had campaigned extensively, raising national issues like the Ram temple, abrogation of J&K’s special status and even the new citizenship law and the proposed nationwide NRC.