Soon after the Election Commission announced five-phase polls in Jharkhand, the political climate heated up in the state, with Opposition parties alleging that the poll panel did not heed their views on conducting the elections in one phase.
Leader of Opposition and JMM chief Hemant Soren said, “The five-phase elections show that everything is not right in Jharkhand.” Congress working president Rajesh Thakur said, “The EC sought our views, but it was a fruitless exercise as our request was not heeded. We had demanded election in one phase. It is clear that Left-wing extremism has not reduced in the state.”
Jharkhand’s Nodal Officer for conducting elections and ADG (Operation) M L Meena said, “Left-wing extremism has been a challenge in Jharkhand, they boycott polls and target polling parties. We have started the preparations.”
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He said the polls have to be conducted in rough terrain and communication remains a challenge. In 2014, he said, Jharkhand had 21 Left-wing extremism-affected districts, which has reduced to 19 in 2019. “There were 16 most-affected districts, the number is now 13,” Meena added.
BJP is in power in Jharkhand, which has a large tribal population, and an alliance of Opposition parties — mainly the Congress and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) — is making a bid to oust the Raghubar Das government.
While the Opposition parties try to recoup after a dismal performance in the Lok Sabha elections. the ruling BJP is eyeing a 65-plus tally in the 81-member Assembly with the “Ghar ghar Raghubar” campaign. Their main poll plank will be the government’s work on “effective implementation” of central schemes and setting up of companies under Momentum Jharkhand to provide employment.
Asked if BJP was perturbed by poll verdicts in Haryana and Maharashtra, Das had told The Indian Express, “Maharashtra and Haryana do not have 26 per cent tribal population and situation is very different here. We will definitely win.”
The BJP now has 48 seats in the Assembly, with five MLAs from Opposition parties having joined recently.
The Opposition, on its part, has been raising the issue of “misrule of the government” and “anti-adivasi” decisions such as attempted tweaking of tenancy Acts and creating land banks without taking tribals’ consent.
Alliances, meanwhile, have been on the backburner. The BJP has been in alliance with All Indian Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), but there has been no consensus on seat-sharing. Lok Janshakti Party, the BJP’s ally in Bihar, is exploring an alliance with the BJP in Jharkhand.
The Opposition, too, has not reached a consensus on seat-sharing. Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee had been grappling with infighting over its president Ajoy Kumar, who resigned after writing a scathing letter against veteran leaders like Subodh Kant Sahay and Pradeep Balmuchu.
JMM has also not reached an agreement on seat-sharing. “The issue is over tribal seats, which will be sorted soon. Some senior Congress leaders were irked because Hemant was projected as the CM face,” said a source.