New Delhi: Jharkhand, ruled by nine governments in the 14 years since the state was carved out of Bihar, has elected its first majority government by delivering a clear mandate in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally, the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU).

The electoral verdict brings with it the promise of political stability to a state that has seen President’s rule on three occasions.

By making PrimeMinister Narendra Modi the central focus of its campaign, the BJP was able to overcome the handicap of not projecting a local leader and lack of support among the state’s tribals, who account for little over a quarter of Jharkhand’s population. In hindsight, its key campaign themes—a stable government and good governance—paid off for the BJP, which more than doubled its tally from the 2009 assembly election.

The BJP won 37 seats and the AJSU five, taking the tally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to 42, above the half-way mark in the 81-member legislative assembly. Jharkhand is the third state where the NDA has wrested power after winning the April-May general election. In October, it captured power in Maharashtra and Haryana.

Politically, it implies a bigger footprint for the party, which handed the Congress its worst electoral defeat in the Lok Sabha election and ended the 10-year stint of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre.

In Jharkhand, the clear mandate could provide the BJP a platform for launching policy reforms without the need for compromises stemming from pressure exerted by fractious coalition partners.

“It is a boost for the BJP; it has increased its tally in Jharkhand and has won one more state. It is also on its way to replace the Congress party as the first national party or the premier national party," said Rajeev Bhargava, a political analyst associated with the New Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

“There is a growing perception that if the same party is in power at the Centre and in the state, that state would be better off and witness faster growth. However, there is no strong evidence to back such a claim," said Bhargava.

The BJP will hold its parliamentary board meeting on Wednesday to discuss potential chief ministerial candidates for Jharkhand.

If the state-centre narrative and promise of good governance worked in the favour of the BJP, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bore the brunt of anti-incumbency and the electorate’s desire for change. While the party improved its vote share by more than 5%, it could improve its tally by only one seat from 18 in the 2009 election.

The JMM’s performance can be gauged from the fact that outgoing chief minister Hemant Soren lost the electoral race from Dumka constituency, a tribal-reserved seat from where his father Shibu Soren has been elected as a member of parliament eight times.

Hemant Soren was not the only prominent loser. Other political heavy weights and former chief ministers like Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda also lost their seats on Tuesday.

Apart from the JMM, one of the biggest casualties of the Jharkhand results on Tuesday was the Congress. While it was never a front runner in this election, repeated losses in five states over the last one year emphasizes the structural faultlines in India’s oldest political party.

In a trend that has played out since it was defeated in the general election, the Congress split from its allies in Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, and eventually with JMM in Jharkhand—a factor that has clearly gone against it.

The Congress party, ridden by internal squabbles in the state unit, waged a muted campaign.

“Unless the top leadership knows the ground reality and unless they are ready to dirty their hands to clean up the organization bottom-up, we will continue to face the kind of results that we did in Jharkhand. We did not capitalize on whatever was the anti-BJP votes, our campaign was abysmal and our ticket distribution was marked by favouritism," said a senior Congress leader who took part in the Jharkhand poll campaign. The politician spoke on condition of anonymity.

Political analysts say that while Modi is key to the BJP’s electoral narrative, sustaining the party’s winning streak depend on the ability of the NDA to deliver on its electoral promises and steering away from controversy.

“There is a very strong anti-establishment feeling which includes the Congress, the BJP and other major political parties," Bhargava said.

“Modi was and is still seen as an outsider, someone from out of the system and who has his own way of getting things done. It will now depend on how quickly Modi is able to deliver, or deliver at all or not. It also depends on whether the people begin to make a connection between his failure to deliver and the frequent controversies surrounding his government."

Jharkhand’s results could also have implications for the neighbouring state of Bihar, where elections are due next year.

Apart from the JMM, all key parties in Jharkhand including the Congress, the BJP, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), have a stake in Bihar.

My Reads Logout