Jharkhand, a state with 26.3 % tribal population, got its first non-tribal chief minister, Raghubar Das, on Friday.
A labourer with India’s oldest and biggest steel plant Tata Steel and five-time legislator from Jamshedpur East, Das pedaled to the company for over a decade and rubbed shoulders with other workers in the plant before he ventured out into the Bharatiya Janata Party. Das is currently on special leave without pay from the company.
Fifty-nine-year-old Das’ climb up the ladder has been steep and arduous — from an election agent in the 1990 assembly polls to the chief minister in 2014 .
Ever since the BJP-AJSU alliance got the convincing majority of 42 seats and the BJP’s tallest tribal leader Arjun Munda lost the elections, Das’ name was on top of the list of chief minister candidates.
At the legislators’ party meeting on Friday at the BJP office, Central observer JP Nadda made the formal announcement.
“The legislators’ party has unanimously elected Das as its leader. I congratulate Das and hope that the BJP alliance will provide good governance fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra sabka satha sabka vikas,” said Nadda.
An ecstatic Das responded, “I am overwhelmed and express heartfelt gratitude to all my party colleagues for giving such a big honour to a majdoor.” The chief minister-designate said it would be his priority to give a good and corruption-free government to Jharkhand.
Das hails from Vaishya caste listed as Other Backward Class (OBC) in the census. Around 40.5% of Jharkhand population belongs to OBC. Though they are a dominant force, the OBC votes were often split. But in this election, the OBCs, who are fighting for their security and identity in several Jharkhand districts, rallied behind Das.
The BJP accomplishes the twin aim of ending the trend of fielding a tribal as chief minister and tapping the large OBC votes by naming Das. The BJP was desperately looking for a face other than Munda who was acceptable to all sections of society. Das, to a certain extent, fits that frame, though some tribal organisations were quick to protest. Minutes after the announcement, representatives of at least 20 tribal organisations took to the streets and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. They feared that with a non-tribal chief minister their identity would be in peril.
In his journey to the chief minister post, Das successfully thwarted competition from Jamshedpur West legislator Saryu Rai and Ranchi legislator CP Singh, the two faces representing the general population in BJP.
Dumka legislator-elect Louis Marandi is the only minority face in the 42-member BJP alliance. The Schedule Castes, which form 11.8% of the population, are still deprived of a strong leader in Jharkhand BJP.