Shibu Tripathi | New Delhi
Months after soaring to new heights in the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is suddenly in the midst of waning popularity as it suffers yet another setback, this time in the natural resource-rich state of Jharkhand. This is the party’s third defeat in a span of less than four months, including the debacle in Haryana and Maharashtra. While the results are a testament to limitations of the Modi-Shah juggernaut, it is also a verdict in favour of the anti-BJP alliance which is gaining traction in state politics.
The results indicate a major change in people’s moods despite an extensive campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, if Modi is not on the ballot, the people will consider their options wisely. The trend has been visible in both Maharashtra and Haryana, where the BJP had banked upon the popularity of Modi who invoked nationalistic fervour in his rallies. In both the state the BJP had a drubbing, while it succeeded to form government in Haryana, it went through a major embarrassment in Maharashtra.
The results paint a picture of a tectonic shift in the perception change of the voters, who are not buying the rhetoric around chest-thumping nationalistic issues. The prime minister in his campaigns invoked NRC, CAA and other national issues while refraining from talking about the core local problems. He targetted the Congress, which now seems to be emerging as an alliance alternative for regional parties. The JMM, however, kept its campaign centered around people of Jharkhand talking about Jal, Jeewan, Jamin (water, life, land), it talked about revamping primary education and improving the lives of tribals among other promises.
A major takeaway from Jharkhand is the emergence of Hemant Soren, who has now moved out of the shadow of his father Shibu Soren. Hemant is set to become the chief minister for the second term after his brief stint in the sachiwalaya in 2013-14. Soren steered the alliance campaign and successfully stitched a gathbandhan with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. At the time of writing this edit, Soren was leading from both Dumka and Barhait and was headed to a comfortable win. Coming from the Santhal community, Soren weaved his campaign towards giving the state a chief minister from within the tribal community, which resonated with voters.
The new challenge for Soren, now, is to carefully steer the delicate balance of a coalition government in the state and fulfill the promises especially in terms of revamping education and creating job opportunities in his five-year term. However, the BJP needs to adapt to the new trends and bring in a drastic change in its strategy, with Delhi and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as its strongest challenge ahead.
(The writer is a working journalists and writes on politics, policy and defence. He tweets @imsktripathi)