Three Things Hemant Soren Is Doing To Win Jharkhand Again

Abhishek Kumar

Jul 03, 2024, 02:06 PM | Updated 02:06 PM IST

JMM has adopted three strategies to secure victory
JMM has adopted three strategies to secure victory

Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, whose party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is in power in the state, is currently out on bail.

His jail time overlapped with the general elections. But despite his absence, Soren’s JMM, the leading party in the Jharkhand faction of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive (INDI) Alliance, won three seats, while its partner secured two.

After receiving relief from the judiciary late last month, Soren appears ready to carry the momentum into the upcoming assembly elections, which will be held in a few months. Under his leadership, the JMM has adopted three strategies to secure victory yet again.

1. Galvanising tribal voters

Soren’s political identity is rooted in two key factors: his tribal heritage and being the son of tribal leader Shibu Soren. While he was in jail, his identity as a "son of the tribals" was advertised even more by his supporters. Contrary to expectations, Soren’s imprisonment did not lead to tribals distancing themselves from his tarnished reputation.

In fact, the general sentiment is that tribals got more united in favour of Soren. The discontentment among tribals about the arrest outweighed years of efforts made by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to woo them. Being in power, the BJP was blamed for sending a tribal chief minister to the hardships of jail.

BJP lost five out of five seats reserved for scheduled tribes (STs) in the state in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. This is more significant when looked from a different angle — the BJP lost only on tribal seats. In the assembly elections to be held in 2024, 28 seats are reserved for STs, 25 of which were won by JMM and allies even in the 2019 elections.

Soren has geared up for it. His first public appearance after coming out on bail was on ‘Hul Diwas’ celebrated to remember Santhals’ rebellion against British rule. In his speech, Soren called for a similar rebellion against feudal forces.

When JMM talks about feudal forces, its interpretations are different in different contexts as its patriarch Shibu Soren’s journey began his political journey by protecting tribals from feudal landlords, mainly upper caste. In modern day and age, it is also used for owners of big industrial houses mining Jharkhand’s minerals and their political allies, primarily the BJP.

With a two-word phrase (feudal forces), Soren has tapped into every entity which tribals are said to be against. Soren accompanied such rhetoric with the promise that he would make a law to ensure the tribals benefit from their resources.

To further unite tribals, Soren is also planning an ‘Abhar Yatra’ in which members of Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will also participate.  

2. Promising freebies

Hemant Soren is also banking heavily on the tried and tested formula of loan waivers and populist schemes bordering freebies.

On 26 June 2024, the Jharkhand government unveiled a health insurance scheme with healthcare benefits of Rs 15 lakh per annum — 200 per cent more than the Centre’s limit of Rs 5 lakh under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. It will be available for those ration card holders who are left out of the central scheme.

While the scheme seems to be well-intentioned, the benefits under it and the timing of the announcement (just before the election) give a political colour to it.

Two days after the announcement of the health insurance scheme, the JMM government said that it would provide electricity free of cost to families spending not more than 200 units per month. More than 41.4 lakh families will directly benefit from it.

With the latest enhancement, the threshold for free electricity has doubled in the last six months. In February this year, the same entitlement was hiked from 100 units to 125 units.

For farmers, the JMM government is working on a strategy to waive farm loans up to the tune of Rs 2 lakh — 300 per cent more than the existing limit of Rs 50,000. Badal Patralekh, Agriculture Minister of Jharkhand has asked banks to prepare a proposal for the same. More than 1.91 lakh farmers and their families will benefit immensely from it.

In another significant cabinet decision, the JMM government will provide Rs 1,000 per month to women in the 21-50 age group. The scheme named ‘Mukhya Mantri Bahan Beti Maiqui Swabalamban Protsahan Yojana’ will benefit 45 lakh women and cost Rs 5,500 crore to the state exchequer.

All of these announcements were made in the last three weeks —indicating that the party has accelerated its preparation for the upcoming assembly elections.

3. Wooing women voters

The issue of women being worst affected by industrial pollution is gaining traction in state politics — all thanks to Jairam Mahato talking about it upfront.

These women have very little access to social security, and their male family members often live away, leaving them with the dual responsibilities of taking care of children and elders. Additionally, they face job pressure to improve the financial situation of their families.

Jharkhand women — tribals and non-tribals, are participating in the political process more than men. Out of 1.7 crore votes cast in GE 2024, 87.11 lakh votes belonged to women, outnumbering men by 3.36 lakhs. Apart from men migrating outside being a reason behind it, women are also looking to get their demands met collectively.

Two of the aforementioned four schemes — free electricity and health insurance are more useful to women. The third one — The cash incentive scheme is an overt attempt to get women's votes by JMM.

JMM’s bid for women's votes has been buoyed by the way Kalpana Soren, wife of Hemant Soren handled the party and its election campaign during his absence. Not only did JMM and its alliance perform better, but Kalpana also won Gandey bypoll by more than 27,000 votes.

Kalpana has emerged as a beacon of hope and a benchmark for women who want to take up active politics. Under Kalpana’s guidance, tribal women were seen actively participating in seeking ‘fair treatment’ for corruption accused Hemant Soren.

Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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