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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

BJP banks on development in Jharkhand; Haryana, Maharashtra show gives Opposition hope

BJP faces an opposition emboldened by the ruling party’s below-par performance in the October polls in Haryana and Maharashtra.

assembly-elections Updated: Nov 02, 2019 05:12 IST
Bedanti Saran
Bedanti Saran
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Massive turnout of voters at polling booth in Maoist infested Palma area of Pirtand block that part of Giridih Lok Sabha constituency in May earlier this year.
Massive turnout of voters at polling booth in Maoist infested Palma area of Pirtand block that part of Giridih Lok Sabha constituency in May earlier this year. (Bijay/Hindustan Times)

Ranchi The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Jharkhand’s first non-tribal chief minister Raghubar Das, has set itself the target of winning at least 65 of the 81 Jharkhand assembly seats in an electoral contest in which it will take on four opposition parties that have closed ranks behind Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren .

Dates for the five-phase assembly election, spread over November 30,December 7, December 12, December 16 and December 20 were announced on Friday by the Election Commission, preparing the ground for an election in which the BJP faces an opposition emboldened by the ruling party’s below-par performance in the October polls in Haryana and Maharashtra.

“We are contesting this election on four planks -- development, nationalism, 65 plus seats and Ghar Ghar Raghubar. The electorate knows what all has been done in the past five years by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and Raghubar Das government in the state,” Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Pratul Shahdeo said.

Das, the first chief minister of Jharkhand to complete a full five-year term, has already been on an extensive tour of the state,a hotbed of left-wing extremism, where tribespeople make up the single biggest bloc of voters and account for around 26% of the population, according to Census 2011. Das’s government is also seeking to be the first in Jharkhand to be re-elected.

Until 2014, no party or pre-poll alliance received a majority on its own in Jharkhand and none of the coalition governments formed in the state survived its full term. Because of the chronic political instability, the state has in the past witnessed a slew of experiments in governance, including an independent legislator, Madhu Koda, serving as chief minister with the outside support of a few mainstream parties.

That stopped when, in 2014, the BJP mustered 43 assembly seats In this year’s general election, the party won 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.

The BJP claims to have started, among other things, affirmative action programmes for women’s education, marriage and motherhood, put in place a grievance redressal system for local residents, and a scheme that offers poor families rice, dal and vegetables for Rs. 5 a plate at railway stations, bus stands, hospitals and public places.

The opposition alliance of JMM, Congress, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Left are counting on public resentment over a crisis confronting agriculture, a perceived lack of economic development in tribal areas and alleged misgovernance by the BJP to erode the ruling party’s support base.

To be sure, the Opposition saw an exodus of sitting legislators to the BJP in October when two MLAs each from the Congress and JMM, one from JVM-P and one independent joined the party.

But the poll results in Haryana and Maharashtra have rekindled the opposition’s hope. In Haryana, the Congress won 31 seats, up from 15 in 2014, and the BJP 40, seven fewer seats. The BJP formed the government in alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), which won 10 seats. In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiva Sena alliance won 161 seats in the 288-member assembly compared to 185 in 2014; the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party won 98 seats, 15 more than in 2014.

Jharkhand Congress president Rameshwar Oraon expressed confidence in the opposition alliance’s prospects in the upcoming elections, downplaying the impact of the defection of MLAs.

“They {BJP} got much less than what they were expecting in Haryana and Maharashtra. The half-done exercise of throwing them out of power will now be completed in Jharkhand,” he said.

Shahdeo said Jharkhand can’t be equated with Hayana and Maharashtra. “Traditionally, Jharkhand is our stronghold. We were new in Haryana, even then we excelled. Poll results in the two states will not change our agenda. Here, we have announced our leader and soon seat sharing with our alliance partners will be disclosed. But opposition camp is yet to come up with their leader’s face. In fact, they want to live in a fool’s paradise,” he said.

In 2014, all opposition parties contested the assembly elections separately. JMM won 19 seats, JVM (P) eight and Congress five seats while the RJD drew a blank.

The Congress led an opposition alliance in this year’s Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand, but managed to win only two of the 14 seats, and made way for the JMM in the assembly elections.

“We will soon announce the formation of grand alliance comprising at least four political parties -- JMM, Congress, JVM (P) and the RJD, “ said JMM’s general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya, adding, “We are working on to finalize the seat-sharing formula.”

JMM’s working president and leader of opposition Hemant Soren “will be the chief ministerial face of the grand alliance,” he added.

Political expert Tulu Sarkar, a former head of the department of political science at Ranchi University, said the poll results in Haryana and Maharashtra would not have much of an impact on Jharkhand.

“Voters have become more aware now. They can see what has happened in the last 19 years. One thing is clear -- that the state progressed much in last five years. One can see development everywhere including villages. Even a lay man is aware of this, “ Sarkar said.

She added, “BJP will have an upper hand in this election considering the fragmented opposition in Jharkhand. However, issues related to unemployment, farmers, tenancy laws safeguarding tribal interests and of course the Ram Temple {issue}, as the Supreme Court’s judgment is expected early, will play a crucial role in the polls.”