Jharkhand assembly election 2019: How politics has evolved in Jharkhand in two decades
Jharkhand would complete two decades of its formation in November 2020. The November-December assembly elections will be the fourth after the state was carved out of Bihar. Has politics changed fundamentally in the state after its creation?
Not so much, shows an HT analysis of election statistics from 1980 onwards. This analysis has used statistics from the Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) at Ashoka University. It has looked at 81 assembly constituencies (ACs) which were in Bihar until 2000 and were carved out to make Jharkhand. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) first contested an election in 1980.
The analysis shows that political equations which matter in Jharkhand today had started manifesting themselves before the state was created.
Even after the BJP’s entry into the electoral fray, the Congress continued to be the biggest party in terms of vote share in the 1980 and 1985 elections. The Congress received its biggest setback in the 1990 elections, when it suffered a 15 percentage point decline in vote share. To be sure, the 1985 elections were an aberration, as the Congress won a huge mandate in Bihar. A comparison with 1980 vote shares shows that the 1990 loss in Congress’s vote share was very similar to what the BJP gained in the elections.
The 1990 elections were held in the backdrop of the BJP championing the Ram Janmabhoomi issue in a big way. The damage which the Congress suffered after 1990 has been permanent. The Congress’s vote share declined even more after the creation of Jharkhand.
The Ram temple push for the BJP was greater in regions which went to Jharkhand than the parts which stayed in Bihar. This can be seen from a comparison of BJP’s seat share and vote share in these two regions.
Given this background, it is not surprising that the BJP is harping on the Ayodhya issue in a big way in the Jharkhand elections to target the Congress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress of delaying the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya when he addressed his first election campaign rally in the state on Monday.
Rise of the BJP is not the only political story which has unfolded in Jharkhand in the last three decades. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which was founded in 1973, has also grown along with the BJP in the state. Both the BJP and the JMM recorded their best-ever performance in terms of vote share in the 2014 assembly elections.
To be sure, the BJP has had a ten percentage point lead over the JMM since 1995 in terms of vote share in all elections except 2009. One reason why the JMM has not been able to emerge as the largest party in the state is its inability to break ground in the North Chotanagpur and Palamu regions, which account for 34 out of the 81 ACs in the state.
These two are also the two regions where the Scheduled Tribe (ST) population share is the lowest in the state. This suggests that the JMM’s main support base is among ST voters. STs account for 26% of the state’s population according to the 2011 census. The BJP made Raghubar Das the first non-ST chief minister in the history of the state in 2014, a move which was targeted at consolidating the non-ST vote. It remains to be seen whether the JMM’s alliance with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) can help it bridge its deficit vis-à-vis the BJP in these elections.