The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a massive edge in Jharkhand on the back of the Narendra Modi wave that helped it win the assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, political observers say.
Jharkhand's voters hope the elections will bring relief from a string of coalition governments and political instability since the state was created in 2000. The 2004 and 2009 elections resulted in fractured verdicts.The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led grand United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II), has been in power for the past one-and-a-half years.
The BJP will fight the state's third assembly polls--to be held in five phases between November 25 and December 20-- with this objective of forming a single-party government and political winds seem to be blowing in its favour.
In the April parliamentary polls, the party won 12 of the 14 seats in the state. State election commission figures from 81 assembly seats showed the BJP had an impressive lead in 56 seats and was second in 23 seats thanks to Modi, who addressed around nine rallies and turned the tide in his party's favour. It finished third in the remaining two seats.
The party also saw a phenomenal rise in its vote share, getting around 40% of the 65.04% of votes polled. Rivals lagged far behind, with the UPA (JMM with the Congress and the RJD) collectively getting just 23.64% of the votes.
But, the party could face a challenge if the ruling coalition patches up its differences. The BJP has already announced that it will to go to the polls alone.
Unlike Haryana and Maharashtra, where parties fought without alliances, the situation will be different in Jharkhand. Political observers feel the grand ruling alliance may emerge tougher as it has already started raining sops and schemes to woo women and tribal voters.
The BJP has also not been able to deliver on its promises despite being a part of all ruling governments in the state and has disappointed voters, especially the 24% tribal population that still connects to the JMM as its own party.
However, what could work for the BJP is that regional parties like former chief minister Babulal Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) and the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) have only become weaker with several top leaders and legislators defecting to either the JMM or the BJP.
Some political observers feel the weakness with the BJP is its overdependence on the Modi wave, though there are others who feel this is a plus.
BJP president Amit Shah has made it clear that polls would be fought in Modi's name, setting at rest the debate over the choice of the chief ministerial candidate.
Many like Raghuvar Das, BJP national vice-president and one of the chief ministerial candidates in Jharkhand, says Shah's direction points the way to a winning strategy.