December 27, 2014

JHARKHAND POLLS 2014 - Part III

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The elections to the fourth Jharkhand state legislative assembly are over and the results are out. Having analyzed the numbers, let us see the seven key takeaways from the state assembly polls.

(7) Janata Parivar's 'unimpressive' debut: A few weeks earlier, Mandalite leaders including Mulayum Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Deve Gowda came together to form a united front against the Modi juggernaut. Rattled by the results of the 2014 General Polls wherein these former colleagues in the erstwhile Janata Dal were literally obliterated in their own turfs, the regional satraps began talks of a possible merger sometime in the near future to take on a resurgent BJP under Narendra Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah. The state elections was the first time that two major constituents of this new 'group', namely the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal - United (JD-U) were fighting polls together. However, their failure to win any seats shows that the new avataar of the Janata Parivar still does not have the blessings of the janata (people). For all those who believe that the two outfits have no presence in the state, they won seven seats in the last polls. Moreover, the parties ended up fielding rival candidates from same constituencies in spite of hammering a 'seat sharing' arrangement with the Congress.

(6) Another electoral setback for the Congress: Year 2014 has been a forgettable year for the grand old party. Apart from a victory in Arunachal state polls, the party has not managed to win any major election in the country in the last twelve months. From hitting historical lows in the General Elections to being relegated to the third position in traditional strongholds of Maharashtra and Haryana, the INC under the 'able' leadership of Rahul Gandhi is hardly the party that it once was till sometime back. The results of the Jharkhand polls show that the 'lean' phase that the Congress is going through is far from over. The INC dropped eight seats to finish with a tally of 6. However, what should hurt Congress the most is the decision to pull the plug on its alliance with the JMM. Had the party continued the partnership, the results could have been different. Besides, it also failed to get Babulal Marandi on board in its rather disastrous coalition with the RJD and the JD-U.

(5) Babulal Marandi's return to the saffron fold? In 2006, the state's first CM Babulal Marandi broke his ties with the BJP after fallout with the incumbent CM Arjun Munda and launched his own outfit - the JVM-P. In the 2009 polls, he contested the elections in alliance with the Congress and won 11 of the 25 seats its contested primarily thanks to his popularity and Mr. Clean image. However, in the run up to the 2014 polls, he refused to be a part of the JMM-Congress coalition since he was not projected as the front's CM candidate. Despite of many of his MLAs crossing over to other parties, it did win 8 seats and finished as the third largest party in terms of numbers behind the BJP and the JMM. However, in what could be one of the biggest surprises of the polls, Marandi was defeated in both the seats he contested - Giridh and Dhanawar. After the results, Marandi who wanted to lead an anti-BJP front prior to the polls was ready to consider being a part of the new regime. Earlier, after his elevation as the BJP's PM designate, Modi had requested the JVM-P supremo to merge his party into the BJP. Now with the BJP still needing numbers to lessen its reliance on the AJSU, the saffron camp may vigorously woo its former leader to come back. Is a 'Gharwapsi' on the cards? Let's wait and watch.

(4) Is the Modi bandwagon losing steam? Though it did emerge as the single largest party in the state, the BJP's 'lackluster' tally and its inability to cross the half way mark on its own is a clear indication that the Modi wave is weakening. Opinion polls had suggested that the saffron outfit may go well beyond the 50 seats on its own considering that it lead in 56 assembly segments if we take into account the results of the May elections and in the aftermath of the breakup of the JMM - Congress alliance. However, all that the party could manage was 37 seats with its ally - the AJSU grabbing another 5 seats. This decline is a clear fact that the 'honeymoon' period of the Modi government at the Centre was enjoying for the last six months is slowly coming to an end. The PM had promised a lot of things during his electoral campaign and its time that he starts delivering on it, failing which the BJP might suffer the same fate as the INC.

(3) A new regional leader on the block: With Shibu Soren's health deteriorating many were speculating that his outfit - the JMM could slide into the oblivion. However, the manner in which his son and the incumbent CM Hemant Soren led his party and gave a tough fight to the BJP has been appreciated from political observers and opponents alike. Had it not been for him, the JMM would have never been able to retain its 2009 tally. He got back former JMM stalwarts including Stephen Marandi and Anil Murmu back into the party to further strengthen the party. Using his limited resources and and as some people have alleged, his links with underground groups, he was able to prevent the BJP to win a simple majority on its own. At the same time, there are some things that the younger Soren needs to address. His defeat from the family borough of Dhumka was a crude jolt to the JMM. Not only this, his party seems to be losing ground in its stronghold of the Santhal region which is a major cause of worry. Anyway, there is no doubt that with age on his side, Hemant Soren is fast emerging as one of the strong leaders from this part of the country and is set to play a significant role in the political scenario of Jharkhand in the future.

(2) End of Tribal politics? For long, the Sorens, the Mundas, the Marandis and the Mahatos have long dominated the politics of the state. However, the results of the 2014 state polls have come as a major setback for many of the state's top ST leaders. Four of the state's ex-CMs had to bite the dust. Arjun Munda who was considered to be the front runner to the top post was beaten from Khasran by Dasrath Gagrai of the JMM whereas former state secretary J B Tubid was defeated by Deepak Biruwa of the JMM from Chaibasa. AJSU chief and former Deputy CM Sudesh Mahato lost to JMM's Amit Kumar from Silli constituency. Babulal Marandi of the JVM-P was beaten from both the seats he contested. Incumbent CM Hemant Soren lost from his stronghold of Dhumka whereas another former CM Madhu Koda was beaten from Majhgaon.

Following the defeat of Arjun Munda, the stage is set for Jamshedpur - East MLA Raghuvar Das to become the first non-tribal CM from the state. The elevation of Das and the defeat of so many prominent tribal leaders has signaled a tectonic shift in the state politics at least for the next five years.

(1) End of political instability..... Not yet: Many have hailed the Jharkhand verdict as a vote for stability, something that the state had lacked for the past 14 years. With the BJP and the AJSU winning 42 seats, there is a strong belief that the state may have a stable regime for the next five years. Sadly though, in my opinion, that could be far from reality. The saffron outfit needs the support of 5 AJSU legislators to be in majority; past records tell us that the Sudesh Mahato led party is 'unreliable' and could keep the new CM on tenterhooks. That is not all. BJP's own former CM Arjun Munda may have lost the polls himself. However, he too will push for more ministries for his camp by playing the tribal card. Amongst the 6 smaller parties with one MLA each, the BJP will find it difficult to align with the two MLAs from the Leftist ideology or take help from controversial MLAs like Madhu Koda's wife Geeta or jailed leader Enos Ekka who is facing murder charges. Besides, getting back Babulal Marandi too isn't going to be easy. He too may play hard ball by pushing for becoming the CM of the state.


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