Tough going for the BJP

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his election campaign in Jharkhand, he started with a roadshow in Ranchi on April 23. Though a grand spectacle, attended by some 200,000 people, many thought it unusual for the prime minister himself to hold a road show. However, as a senior BJP leader admitted, the party needed him more than ever in Ranchi. Apart from Congress candidate Subodh Kant Sahay, sitting BJP MP Ram Tahal Choudhary too has eme­rged as a challenger. Denied a ticket, he has jumped into the fray as a rebel.

The biggest challenge for Raghubar Das, the state’s first non-tribal chief minister, this Lok Sabha election is that the BJP has everything to lose, having won 12 of the state’s 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. The party is contesting 13 seats this time, leaving its Giridih seat for ally All Jharkhand Students Union, besides dropping four sitting MPs.

Additionally, the Congress-led opposition has stitched a near-perfect alliance. The grand old party is contesting 7 seats, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha 4, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha 2 and the Rashtriya Janata Dal 1. Except in Chatra, where the RJD too has fielded a candidate, the alliance is working well on the ground.

Going by the 2014 numbers, JMM-Congress and JVM had a 35.3 per cent vote share. And the Modi wave is unlikely to happen again, a senior Congress leader said in Ranchi. Apart from the timely alliance, having regional satrap Hemant Soren, son of former chief minister Shibu Soren, touring the state from June 2018 could also help upset the saffron applecart.

The CM also alienated the tribals with the amendments to the tenancy acts removing the requirement that 70 per cent of landowners consent to clearing land for development projects. The August 2017 anti-conversion bill too was seen as an attempt to divide the tribal community along religious lines. Five of the state’s 14 seats are reserved for STs, one for SCs.

The BJP is hoping to meet the Congress challenge by reminding voters how lame-duck Independent Madhu Koda was propped up as chief minister between 2006 and 2008. His wife Geeta is now the Congress candidate from Singhbhum. The alliance’s past record too isn’t encouraging. It has done well in just one of the three Lok Sabha polls held since the state came into being in 2000. That was in 2004, when the Congress-JMM-RJD and CPI alliance won 13 seats.


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