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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Jharkhand Assembly Election 2019| Tribal versus Tribal: BJP sees another chance in Jharkhand

AJSU has nominated Balmuchu for the tribal -dominated seat of Ghatshila, a mining town of east Singhbhum district, and is hoping for an upset victory.

assembly-elections Updated: Dec 02, 2019 05:38 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, Jamshedpur/Ghatshila
BJP won this seat for the first time in 2014, and it was one of the only five seats that BJP won in the tribal dominated Kolhan region, which accounts for 14 of the 81 assembly seats.
BJP won this seat for the first time in 2014, and it was one of the only five seats that BJP won in the tribal dominated Kolhan region, which accounts for 14 of the 81 assembly seats. (HT File)
         

When former Congress chief Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, a prominent tribal face of his party, defected to the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) party last moth, he took everyone by surprise.

The AJSU, a former ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is known to be a party of the Other Backward Class(OBC).

But now, the AJSU has nominated Balmuchu for the tribal -dominated seat of Ghatshila, a mining town of east Singhbhum district, and is hoping for an upset victory.

“I am confident of victory in Ghatshila,” AJSU candidate Balmuchu said. “A division in tribal vote will help the BJP elsewhere.”

The BJP won this seat for the first time in 2014, and it was one of the only five seats that BJP won in the tribal dominated Kolhan region, which accounts for 14 of the 81 assembly seats.

This time, it is hoping that in Ghatshila, the tribal vote is split between the Balmuchu,the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and the opposition alliance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Elsewhere in the state, the BJP is hoping to play up divisions of religion in the community, which makes up a little more than a quarter of the state’s population. Such a division, added to its strong base among the OBC communities, is enough to win a second term, the party feels.

About 28% of households in Jharkhand, where results to five-phase elections will be announced on December 23, have heads who belong to a scheduled tribe. A sizeable number of these families have embraced Christianity and a strong network of the Christian missionaries in and around the Kolhan region ensured the BJP did not get a foothold in the region for decades.

“We brought anti-conversion law and tried to check the illegal activities of missionaries, such as encroachment of land. This has helped us win support of those tribal who did not convert,” chief minister Raghubar Das said.

His government has also ordered district administrations to launch a probe to ascertain if land plots on which missionaries operate churches, school and other such institution have been procured fraudulently.

“There is a divide between the Christian tribal and non-Christian tribal. The latter have suffered because of the former’s disproportionate influence over state politics. When we have reached out to the non-Christian tribal, they are speaking out against those who converted. They see a hope in BJP,” another BJP strategist in Ranchi said on condition of anonymity.

The BJP polled 31.8% votes in the 2014 assembly election and bagged 31 seats, as against the JMM’s tally of 19 seats and 20.8% votes. The BJP’s vote share increased to 51.6% in the 2019 general elections, and JMM’s tally was down to 11.7%.

The BJP won 11 out of 28 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribe in the 2014 assembly election, and sprang a surprise by defeating JMM patriarch Shibu Soren from Dumka in 2019 parliamentary election by a margin of over 47,000 votes.

“The BJP’s policies have been detrimental to the interest of the indigenous population. It will certainly hurt them in this election,” former chief minister and JMM chief Hemant Soren said.

Political expert Vidya Bhushan Mishra said the BJP remains a dominant force in Jharkhand and its support among the OBCs, which account for 46% of state’s population, gives it an edge over its rivals.