Tribal disconnect, policy failures led to BJP's loss in Jharkhand

Delhi Jan 02, 2020, 03.46 PM(IST) Written By: Annu Kaushik

Hemant Soren Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

The state BJP was dubbed as 'anti-tribal' and a lack of communication with the people made the situation worse for the Saffron party.

When I travelled across Jharkhand- my home state in 2017 - public opinion was still in the BJP's favour. Saffron flags could be seen outside houses in a tribal village on the outskirts of Ranchi. People said that BJP volunteers met them and that they are hopeful that the government will bring development. The changes that central schemes like Ujjwala Yojana brought were visible as many houses got gas connections. Many of them built toilets from the funds allotted by the government.

Yet, the BJP's defeat was in the offing months ahead of the state elections. Polling in Jharkhand was underway when the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by Parliament but national politics had little impact on the state elections which was fought on regional issues.

Raghubar Das who not only became the state’s first non-tribal chief minister, but also the first to complete a full five-year term was an unknown figure when he took over the post.

His compatriot and former CM Arjun Munda remained much popular. Munda was also a formidable tribal leader in the state.

But Das’ rift with Munda was an open secret and this meant that the latter was mostly not involved in campaigning.

It didn’t help much for an already unpopular CM to sideline well-known veterans and give tickets to Congress turncoats. Anti-corruption crusader Saryu Rai who spoke against tainted ministers in Das’ cabinet was denied a ticket.

Rai later defeated Das as an independent from Jamshedpur East.

The BJP hardly won any seat in the tribal belt while Hemant Soren's Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) swept the region. Tribal discontent against the government was growing. One of the major concerns was proposed amendments to two land laws- the Chotanagpur Tenancy and the Santhal Parganas Act.

The amendments which did not materialise sought to lift restrictions on the sale of tribals' land to industries. The opposition dubbed the government as 'anti-tribal' and a lack of communication with the people made the situation worse for the BJP.

While Das addressed rallies in Hindi, his rival Hemant Soren - a tribal leader - spoke in regional languages.

The lack of a prominent tribal face was made worse by the saffron party’s fallout with its ally All Jharkhand Student’s Union (AJSU) which was popular among the tribals as well as the OBCs.

The BJP eventually fought the elections alone in a state where no party has been able to secure a majority on its own.

Policy failures too served a blow to the BJP government. The global investors’ summit ‘Momentum Jharkhand’ gained a lot of traction but failed on the ground. The event failed to create jobs and attract investments as the state lacked enough infrastructure to support the establishment of new industries. And once again, the government failed to assuage tribal anger on the issue of land. This as new industrial projects meant acquisition of land in tribal areas.

(Views expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)