The Real Jharkhand Story: BJP Snatched Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory 

by R Jagannathan - Dec 24, 2019 12:07 PM +05:30 IST
The Real Jharkhand Story:  BJP  Snatched Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das. 
Snapshot
  • These are the lessons the BJP needs to learn from its Jharkhand defeat.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) defeat in the Jharkhand assembly elections is less of a defeat, and more of potential victory sacrificed out of sheer foolishness.

The headlines don’t say it all. The big numbers show that the BJP is not even the single largest party (the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha or JMM got 30 seats to the BJP’s 25); its Chief Minister Raghurbar Das lost badly to a former party rival in his own seat. The JMM-Congress-RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) alliance won 47 out of 81 assembly seats, giving it a thumping win over the BJP’s 25 seats.

These numbers don’t give us the real truth, as the devil is in the details. Far from being a bad loss, the BJP actually remains the single largest party in terms of vote share by far, with 33.37 per cent to JMM’s 18.73 per cent. The BJP actually increased its vote share between the 2014 elections and now (33.37 now versus 31.26 per cent in 2014), even though the vote share is sharply down from the Lok Sabha levels of over 50 per cent.

If the BJP had retained its alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union Party (AJSUP), which got 8.1 per cent, it would have won easily. With over 41 per cent, a BJP-AJSUP tie-up would have handily beaten the JMM-Congress-RJD’s collective 35.55 per cent. The BJP on its own is barely 2 per cent below the vote share of the mahagathbandhan.

The outgoing Chief Minister, Raghubar Das, probably got it right when he said that “it is not BJP’s defeat, it is my defeat.”

Such modesty and willingness to shoulder blame is good, but Das cannot be the only one accountable for the BJP’s defeat. The central leadership surely must take a large share of the blame not only for allowing an alliance with the AJSUP to atrophy, but also by running a campaign focusing on only national issues. It failed to see the sharp erosion in tribal votes that ultimately did it in.

In the two major reserved categories, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the BJP actually improved its tally among SCs (six seats won against five in 2014), but lost heavily among STs (down from 11 to three).

The BJP has several lessons to learn from its Jharkhand defeat.

One, it must nurture its alliances and not fritter them away. This happened in Maharashtra, and now in Jharkhand.

Two, in state elections, local issues matter more than national issues. This implies that Narendra Modi can win a national election with his personal appeal, but he cannot swing local votes by playing up national issues. The electorate knows it is not electing Modi in Jharkhand.

Three, the BJP must give up its tendency to decide local leadership from above. While Raghubar Das seemed like an inspired choice a year ago, clearly he could not carry the state on his own. In future, the state arms must be given a larger role in deciding who gets to be chief minister, with the central party stepping in only if there are irreconcilable differences between factions that can’t see eye-to-eye.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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