Why Babulal Marandi Is The Most Important Person In BJP For Next Six Months

Nishtha Anushree

Jun 26, 2024, 01:44 PM | Updated 03:07 PM IST

Babulal Marandi
Babulal Marandi
  • A BJP victory in Jharkhand to replace the INDI Alliance would be seen as a routine change of the incumbent by voters. But a loss would give momentum to the Congress party.
  • Three states are set to go to assembly polls later this year, namely Haryana, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra. Of these, only Jharkhand is presently governed by the INDI Alliance.

    If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are unable to secure a majority in Jharkhand, it would reveal a crisis of popularity far deeper than is now assumed.

    The responsibility to bring the BJP to power lies with the party's Jharkhand unit president, Babulal Marandi. He was appointed as the state BJP chief in July last year.

    Marandi served as the leader of the BJP legislature party in the Jharkhand assembly from February 2020 to October 2023, until Amar Kumar Bauri was appointed as the leader of opposition in the state assembly.

    Now, Marandi's full focus will be on delivering electoral success for the party in the state. He was brought back into the BJP in February 2020 for this very purpose by Home Minister Amit Shah.

    In 2019, the BJP could win only 25 seats in the state assembly, 12 down from 37 in 2014, when it was able to form the government in Jharkhand. Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) won three seats, down from eight in 2014.

    Both parties realised that they needed each other and ultimately merged in February 2020. Marandi was the first chief minister of Jharkhand but formed his own party in 2006, splitting from the BJP.

    In its maiden election in 2009, the JVM won 11 seats. Then in 2014, it won eight, and in 2019, it fell further to three, compelling Marandi to go back to the BJP.

    Now, the central BJP leadership has put its trust in Marandi. The BJP election in-charge for Jharkhand, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, recently said, "The whole team will work under the leadership of Babulal ji (Marandi), and we are here to help."

    Marandi's background is also important for the BJP, as he is from a scheduled tribe (ST). The BJP has been struggling to win ST-reserved seats in Jharkhand.

    In the recently held Lok Sabha election, the party couldn't win any of the ST-reserved seats. In the 2019 assembly elections, it won only two of those 28 seats.

    If Marandi successfully mobilises his community votes in favour of the BJP, the party could overcome this problem.

    Another factor working in favour of the BJP in Jharkhand is anti-incumbency against the current government.

    The BJP will face its own anti-incumbency in Haryana and Maharashtra, where it is in power. However, in Jharkhand, this factor can play out in favour of the BJP, especially with the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress coalition facing corruption charges.

    Former Jharkhand chief minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren is in jail for an alleged land scam case. A Congress minister, Alamgir Alam, was also arrested after around Rs 350 crore in cash was found in possession of his aide's help.

    In such a scenario, a loss in Jharkhand would boost the morale and image of the INDI Alliance and dent the confidence of the BJP and NDA. As Jharkhand is currently governed by INDI Alliance constituents, the JMM and Congress, their re-election will further strengthen the opposition's narrative that voters are rejecting the BJP.

    Besides Kerala and West Bengal, where the INDI constituents contest against each other, Jharkhand will only be the third large state to re-elect a United Progressive Alliance (UPA)/INDI alliance government since 2014. The implications of that happening could be far-reaching.

    From the prism of the Lok Sabha election, Jharkhand is the best bet for the BJP, as the NDA won nine seats there while the INDI Alliance won five.

    Although the NDA tally fell from 12 in 2019 to nine this time, it is still better than in Haryana, where the party won only five seats, down from 10, with the remaining five won by the Congress.

    Maharashtra witnessed a greater downfall for the BJP, as the party came down to nine seats from 23 in 2019. The INDI Alliance won 30 seats, while the NDA could win only 17.

    Thus, while challenges for the BJP are quite high in Maharashtra and Haryana, the anti-incumbency factor can help the BJP sail the boat in Jharkhand, if Marandi rows well.

    Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.

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