BJP, JD(U) may not tie up for Jharkhand assembly elections
The Janata Dal (United) led by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are unlikely to forge an alliance for the upcoming Jharkhand assembly elections, due in December, two people familiar with the matter said.
The two parties are part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre, and run a coalition government in Bihar.
“The JD(U) does not bring much on the table in Jharkhand,” a senior BJP leader involved in the party’s Jharkhand affairs said on condition of anonymity. “We need to contest maximum number of seats to achieve the target of winning more than 65 out of total 81 assembly seats.”
No party has ever secured majority on its own in any of the three assembly elections in the state since it was carved out of Bihar in November 2000.
The BJP and JD(U) were partners in Jharkhand but they split in 2013 when Kumar walked out of the NDA, opposing Narendra Modi’s elevation as head of BJP’s campaign committee for the 2014 parliamentary election.
Even otherwise, the JD(U)’s fortune was on a continuous decline in the tribal state; according to 2011 census tribals account for 26% of 32. 9 million population in Jharkhand.
The JD(U) had won 6 seats and a 4% vote share in the first assembly election in 2005, but slipped to 2 seats and a vote share of 2.8% in 2009 . It was a BJP ally in both these elections. The party could not win a single seat in the last assembly election and got a vote share of just 1% in 2014.
The BJP is likely to have an alliance with its long-time partners, the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) led by former minister Sudesh Mahto, which fielded candidates in 8 seats in 2014 assembly polls.
The BJP had an alliance with AJSU for the April-May parliamentary elections as well, and together they swept the polls in Jharkhand, winning 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats while the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bagged one each.
“Under such a scenario, there is no scope for a third partner in NDA in Jharkhand,” the BJP leader cited above said.
A senior JD(U) leader said Nitish Kumar was inclined to invest in Jharkhand, which has a sizeable population of other backward classes (OBC), and revive the party’s fortune there. Most of the JD(U) legislators in the past were from the OBC communities, and got elected from constituencies bordering Bihar.
“We will treat December election as an occasion to build the foundation of a stronger party in that state,” a senior JD(U) functionary close to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said.
A section of the JD(U) was inclined to explore possibilities of a pact with the BJP, but Nitish Kumar’s trusted lieutenants were believed to have shot down the idea, claiming the party was not in a position to extract a good deal from the saffron party.
“We will wait for our time,” the JD(U) leader quoted above said.
Vidya Bhushan Mishra, a Ranchi-base senior journalist and political analyst, said the BJP is not dependent on the JD(U) when it comes to Jharkhand.
“The JD(U) has also lost to rival parties many of its veterans, who came from OBC communities, and gave Nitish Kumar’s party a standing in Jharkhand. The presence of JD(U), or its absence, is not going to make much of a difference to the BJP,” he said.