Hemant Soren set to return as Jharkhand CM as BJP loses yet another state

JMM working president Hemant Soren rides a bicycle at his Ranchi residence. Photo: PTI
Jharkhand on Monday became the seventh state since the Karnataka Assembly polls in May 2018 where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has either failed to secure a majority or lost power, indicating its weakening grasp over the states even as it resoundingly won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The trend has also underscored the importance of local issues, including of economic slowdown and job losses, overtaking such national issues as scrapping of Article 370, building of Ram temple in Ayodhya and Citizenship Amendment Act.  

As counting of votes to the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly elections was drawing to a close on Monday evening, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance was on course to win a majority along with allies Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

The JMM was set to emerge the single largest party. It had won or was leading on 30 seats, with the Congress on 16 and RJD on one. Together, the three parties were leading or had won 46 seats.

As the trends became clear, with the BJP having won or leading in 25 seats, Raghubar Das quit as the chief minister. He said it was his personal defeat. “It is not BJP's defeat, it is my defeat," he said. Underlining his unpopularity, Das lost his seat to BJP rebel Saryu Roy by over 15,000 votes.

While several opposition leaders said the defeat was of BJP’s “divisive politics”, the BJP attributed the loss to “local issues”, and said “internal strife” also appeared to have a significant impact in the state.

“Inability of local leadership to convince the electorate for repeat of the mandate and internal strife within the party also appeared to have a significant fall out. A detailed analysis will be done,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.

“We have seen that local elections are increasingly influenced by the performance of the local government and local factors,” Rao said.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated JMM leader Hemant Soren on Twitter. Union Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah his party respected the mandate of Jharkhand voters.

Soren is set to be the next chief minister. He contested on two seats, and won both Barhait and Dumka. Apart from Soren, ally Congress’ central leadership patted party leader RPN Singh on the back for the party’s performance.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to opposition parties to unite, while Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab's Amarinder Singh attributed the BJP's defeat to its divisive politics. With Jharkhand joining the growing list of states slipping out of BJP’s rule, the party now governs mere 35 per cent of the country’s landmass in comparison to over 71 per cent during its peak in 2017 when it was in power in the entire Hindi-speaking heartland.

The BJP's Jharkhand loss comes on the heels of it failing to form a government in Maharashtra, and having to turn to the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) to form a coalition government in Haryana. In contrast, the BJP had won Haryana and Jharkhand comprehensively in the aftermath of the 2014 Assembly polls, while in Maharashtra it fell only 20-odd seat short of the majority mark, but formed the government.

Since April-May 2018, the BJP emerged the single largest party in Karnataka, but could only form a government a year later. It subsequently lost the Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh assembly polls, and its governments there. It was expected to lose in Telangana, which it did.

Of the states that had Assembly polls along with the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP retained Arunachal Pradesh. It lost, as it was expected to, in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim.

The percentage of population being governed by the BJP in the states, either on its own or with its allies, now stands at around 43 per cent from over 69 per cent two years back. Even here, its allies Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party have now opposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), as has the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Meanwhile, the Congress has consolidated in the states. Apart from forming governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, it is now an ally in the coalition government in Maharashtra, and has improved its position in Haryana.

“The people of Jharkhand have given a clear majority to the JMM/Cong/ RJD. A new chapter begins, which will prove a milestone”

------Hemant Soren, JMM working president 

“Congratulations to Hemant Soren and the JMM-led alliance for the victory in Jharkhand polls. Best wishes to them in serving the state”

------ Narendra Modi, Prime minister

“Jharkhand is an Adivasi-dominated state, poverty is more. In such a situation, BJP tried to use financial strength to retain power. But I am happy the people of Jharkhand have not accepted it”

-----Sharad Pawar, NCP chief

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