New Delhi: The alliance between Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Congress trumped the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jharkhand in results announced on Monday to the year’s last assembly election.

BJP’s defeat was compounded by the loss suffered by chief minister Raghubar Das in Jamshedpur East to rebel Saryu Roy, who quit the party recently because of differences over its functioning.

The JMM-led alliance created history by storming to power after striking a pre-poll opposition alliance—a rare such win in the past few years.

“A new chapter will begin for Jharkhand and I want to assure everyone that their hopes will not be broken irrespective of their caste, creed, religion and profession," Hemant Soren, the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance, told reporters in Ranchi. He added that the three alliance partners, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) being the third, will hold meetings in the days ahead to decide the future course of action in the state.

The verdict is a major setback for the ruling BJP and its central leadership. Not only has Das, handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to lead the party in the state, lost his seat, but Jharkhand is also the second state after Maharashtra where BJP has failed to form a government this year.

“I thank the people of Jharkhand for having given @BJP4India the opportunity to serve the state for many years. I also applaud the hardworking party karyakartas for their efforts. We will continue serving the state and raising people-centric issues in the times to come," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

(Graphic: Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint)
(Graphic: Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint)


The loss of Jharkhand comes just seven months after BJP won 11 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state in May, when it returned to power nationally with a bigger margin.

The mandate indicates that while BJP under Modi could be an obvious choice for voters at the national level, that may not be the case in state polls, where BJP has been losing power.

The election result is also a big setback for BJP because this is the first time since the formation of Jharkhand in 2000 that it failed to emerge as the single-largest party, despite having played a major role in the formation and electoral politics of the state.

The success of the opposition alliance in Jharkhand points to a larger trend of opposition parties coming together to defeat BJP, particularly in states that witness a multipolar contest.

“On the ground, it was evident that we will do well. The key factor has been people’s urge to change the government and the resentment was visible even though BJP was trying to ignore it," a senior Congress leader from Jharkhand said on condition of anonymity.

“What also worked in our favour was that unlike most recent elections, local and state-level issues took precedence in Jharkhand and not national issues," the leader said. “The chief ministerial face in Hemant Soren helped project a narrative of him versus Raghubar Das, with whom voters were disenchanted."

Monday’s result could also give a boost to the opposition ahead of Bihar polls next year where too parties such as Congress and RJD are in alliance.

“JMM began its campaign very early. Both Congress and RJD were demoralized and handed over their leadership to JMM. While Congress had organizational trouble and internal clashes, RJD has been demoralized over the absence of its chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and troubles within his family. Hemant Soren, hence, had a free hand in building the campaign," said Harishwar Dayal, an economist and political analyst from Ranchi and the state coordinator of the Lokniti programme of New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

“JMM alliance’s campaign was focused on local issues through local leaders," he said. “BJP’s campaign was more about national issues through national leaders. While it worked in the Lok Sabha polls, in the state polls people looked beyond it."

BJP’s strategy to appoint a non-tribal chief minister in a tribal-dominated state has also come under the scanner with the loss in Jharkhand. Das was the state’s first non-tribal chief minister.

“We respect the mandate of people of Jharkhand. We have worked for the people of the state for the past five years and we are thankful to the people for opportunity. BJP is committed for the development of the state," tweeted Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah.

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