Although the boat has always been rocking and swaying due to political instability ever since it came into existence in 2000, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has managed to remain a formidable force in Jharkhand.
But neither the BJP nor the Congress is likely to enjoy the sway they used to enjoy in the past. The reason: Rise of the regional parties, some of which are rebellious offshoots of the national outfits.
After bagging 13 of the 14 seats in the 1998 general elections, 12 in the 1999 polls — Jharkhand was part of united Bihar till then — the saffron Parivar eventually ended up with merely one seat in the 2004 polls.
The UPA-1, comprising the Congress, Shibu Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), countered the BJP’s dominance. The Congress won six seats, while its two alliance partners walked away with four and two seats, respectively, in 2004.
But the BJP soon bounced back, winning eight of the 14 seats with a 56% strike rate in the 2009 polls. It meant the party clearly emerged as the biggest party in the state with a more than 30% vote-share.
Later, after a split in the UPA-2 — the RJD and the Left parties severed ties —the JMM alliance contributed immensely to the BJP’s dominance, this time reducing the Congress to only one seat while JMM won two.
The 2009 poll also saw the emergence of another regional party, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajantantrik (JVM-P), formed by BJP rebel and former chief minister Babulal Marandi. Contesting from Koderma, a JMM stronghold, he sailed home smoothly.
Marandi increased his tally to two in the 15th Lok Sabha. In the by-poll for the Jamshedpur seat two years later, its candidate Ajoy Kumar defeated then state BJP president Dineshanand Goswami by a convincing margin.
The BJP could have ended up with a double figure had it not given two seats—Chatra and Palamu — to its NDA partner, the Janata Dal (United). BJP workers revolted in the two constituencies and the JD(U) lost the seats.
This time, with his wave arguably sweeping the nation, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi can look up for a better performance in Jharkhand. Several pre-poll surveys already predicted at least eight seats for the BJP.
In fact, its own internal survey said the party could repeat the 2009 results of eight seats. But ground reports say both the BJP and the congress may find the going rough this time, with at least three regional parties — the JMM, JVM-P and the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) Party — occupying a good number of assembly seats and hungry for more.
The national parties may have to face some hard bargaining during government formation because the traditional equations are not working like before. Despite being a traditional UPA partner, the JMM has formed government with the BJP in the state.
But given the JMM’s present bonhomie with Congress and the RJD, it may yet again join the UPA in the general elections. What’s more, with the JD (U) snapping ties with the NDA, the BJP is exploring the options of allying with the JVM-P and the AJSU Party.
There were reported efforts by senior RSS functionaries to bring back Marandi to the BJP fold, but he firmly declined the offer, asserting that he has moved too far to return. Also, the two regional parties have so far shown no sign of joining the saffron Parivar.
The Jharkhand BJP is also struggling with infighting. Two factions, one led by former chief minister Arjun Munda and the other by Godda parliamentarian Nishikant Dubey and his Hazaribagh counterpart, Yashwant Sinha, often engage in a tug of war.
All is not well with the Congress state leadership either. It has barred some very strong aspirants from joining the party. Arun Oraon, an IPS officer of the Punjab cadre, recently joined the BJP after being denied entry into the Congress. He has quit his service to contest the parliamentary poll from Lohardagga and is sure to win.
Now, with Modi at the helm, BJP cadres are hoping against hope that there will be a positive wave sweeping across the party for a better performance this time.