Jharkhand Election Results 2019: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha working president Hemant Soren is set to return for a second stint as Jharkhand Chief Minister after latest trends showed the alliance led by his party, which also includes Congress and RJD, leading on 43 seats in the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly.
For the BJP, the loss in Jharkhand joins a string of poor performances by the saffron party in state elections in the past one year. Besides being recently outwitted by the Congress-Shiv Sena-NCP combine in Maharashtra, BJP has lost major states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, while failing to gain a simple majority in Haryana.
The election results indicate that the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite his popularity, has limitations as a mascot in the state elections. It also signals diminishing popularity for the party in the Hindi belt.
Addressing reporters, Hemant Soren, son of former Union minister and tribal leader Shibu Soren, said people have given a clear mandate for the JMM-Congress alliance.
“Today a new chapter will begin for this state. I want to assure everyone that their hopes will not be broken irrespective of their caste, creed, religion and profession,” the 44-year-old leader said amid a nationwide outrage over the amended Citizenship Act and proposed National Register of Citizens.
Soren, who won from both Dumka and Barhait constituencies, said the time had come to fulfil the demands of the people. “Congress, RJD and JMM fought together, I thank Guruji ( his father Shibu Soren), Laluji and Soniaji, Rahulji, Priyankaji, all central leaders overseeing the campaign who reposed trust on me,” Soren further said.
The JMM and the Congress-RJD combine had contested the 2014 assembly elections separately. The three parties were, however, part of the coalition government led by Hemant Soren from 2013 to 2014 before elections took place. BJP, on the other hand, contested the polls alone for the first time since the creation of Jharkhand in 2000 after failing to reach a seat-sharing arrangement with Sudesh Mahto’s AJSU party.
In the 2014 Assembly elections, the BJP had bagged 37 seats and formed the government with alliance partner AJSU that won five seats. Six MLAs of the Babulal Marandi-led JVM-P joined the BJP soon after the elections. The JMM and the Congress won 17 and 6 seats, respectively. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won 12 out of 14 seats.
However, there were feelers from the ground in Jharkhand that it would not be smooth sailing for BJP or Raghubar Das this time around. Despite being the first CM to complete five years in office, Das faced anti-incumbency, rural distress, resentment over lack of jobs, disenchantment among the tribal community and even a divide within over the choice of poll candidates.
Moreover, Das lost his Jamshedpur East constituency, which he has represented five times since 1995, to expelled BJP leader and former minister Saryu Roy. Saryu Roy, who was the MLA from Jamshedpur West, decided to contest against Das as an Independent candidate after BJP did not give him a ticket in the elections. Roy claims it was Das who did not want him to contest polls.
There was also anger against Das over the way he handled the agitations by para teachers and Anganwadi workers, and unhappiness over the “lack” of new recruitments by the Jharkhand Public Service Commission (JPSC) and Jharkhand Staff Selection Commission (JSSC).
The influential tribal community, who form 26 per cent of the electorate in Jharkhand, also seems to have voted en bloc against the BJP, with trends showing the saffron party leading only in five of the 18 seats in the Santhal Pargana region.
During the election campaign, the grouse of the tribal community had been that “BJP wants to grab our land”. Moreover, the Opposition’s call for the protection of “jal, jungle, zameen” seems to have resonated more with the indigenous population than that of the BJP, which campaigned on issues such as Article 370, Ram Temple, Triple Talaq and the focus shifted to the Citizenship Amendment Act in the later phases.
Considered a bastion of Shibu Soren and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), BJP had broken this notion in 2014, winning eight of the 18 seats spread across Godda, Deoghar, Dumka, Jamtara, Sahibganj and Pakur districts.
As many as five seats – Rajmahal, Pakur, Shikaripara, Maheshpur and Jamtara – share border with West Bengal, having sizeable immigrants from Bangladesh and the amended Citizenship Act and proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) was a major factor in the constituencies. Except for Rajmahal, the JMM-Congress alliance is leading in the other four seats.
The resentment and perceived anger among tribals for the saffron party stems from two legislations that the BJP state government and Centre were forced to withdraw.
In 2016, the Raghubar Das government proposed to amend two of the state’s tenancy laws to make the sale of tribal land to non-tribals less cumbersome through the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, which restrict the sale of tribal land to non-tribals.
However, the government’s move backfired among the tribals, resulting in massive protests by the tribal community. The government finally withdrew the proposed bills.
Moreover, ahead of the Assembly elections, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar announced the withdrawal of a draft of amendments to Indian Forest Act 2018. Several proposals in the draft had triggered an uproar, with activists alleging that the proposed amendments seek to establish the forest department’s stranglehold over forest resources.