Jharkhand Slips Out Of BJP’s Control

The Jharkhand results delivered a morale-boosting victory to the opposition with the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance winning a comfortable majority of 47 seats in a House of 81, and another state slipping out of BJP’s hands after its big sweep in the Lok Sabha elections that returned Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a record second term.

Hemant Soren of JMM is set to take over as chief minister, returning to the job he held for a year before BJP won in 2015. The oath ceremony will take place on Thursday.

BJP slipped to 25 seats from 37 it held in 2014, its decision to contest alone after failed negotiations with regional ally AJSU Party backfiring and the party ceding the status of “single-largest party” for the first time. The contrast to the sweep in the LS elections — BJP won 11 and AJSU one of Jharkhand’s 14 seats — a little over six months ago was astonishing.

Till late in the evening, the JMM-led alliance had 47 out of 81 seats. While JMM had 30 seats, Congress had 16 and RJD one. JMM and Congress posted their best-ever shows. Soren, the working president of JMM, won from Dumka and Barhait seats in the tribal heartland of Santhal Pargana.

The saffron loss seems to be the fallout of several factors. The break with AJSU Party may have proved critical as the vote share of the two parties — BJP (33%) and AJSU (8%) — suggests that they could have made a fight of it if the alliance had held. Incumbency woes returned to haunt BJP with chief minister Raghubar Das losing his own Jamshedpur East seat to BJP rebel Saryu Roy by a margin of over 15,000 votes.

The nullification of Article 370, the Ayodhya verdict and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act could not give BJP an edge. Besides Das, BJP state president Laxman Gilua too lost his seat. If the CM suffered from an image problem, his upper hand in government and party also had a negative fallout. The sidelining of rivals led to a dependence on Das and though BJP did not totally lose the development narrative, the lack of a regional ally and the coalescing of tribal sentiment behind the JMM-led alliance proved too strong to overcome.

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