BJP has performed poorly in tribal areas even as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led alliance has got bigger margins in the seats it won in the assembly polls
Over the past few years, the BJP has struggled to raise its MLA tally even as Congress has recovered from its historic low
Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains unchallenged nationally, its hold over state governments has been weakening for some time now. And the Jharkhand elections only confirm that trend.
The victory for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) alliance will no doubt galvanize the BJP’s opponents. Yet, it is worth noting that despite reversals across states, the BJP still has the largest number of MLAs across the country.
The BJP surpassed the Congress’ MLA tally even before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and consolidated its gains post the 2014 victory as the Congress’ tally fell to a historic low. But over the past few years, the BJP has struggled to raise its MLA tally even as the Congress has recovered from its historic low.
While the Congress’ own strength is still a pale shadow of its past, it has been able to form effective alliances to keep the BJP away from power in several states. In Maharashtra, the grand old party tied up with arch-rival Shiv Sena to keep the BJP at bay. In Jharkhand, the party stitched up an alliance with the JMM and RJD even as the BJP lost its erstwhile ally, the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU).
The results at 9pm indicate that BJP will sit in opposition with 25 seats in all, while Hemant Soren-led JMM will pitch for the chief minister’s post. The BJP did not particularly benefit from contesting in all 81 seats compared to 72 seats in 2014. It increased its vote share by just above 2% based on data as of 4pm, indicating that the JMM-led alliance was successful in consolidating the opposition votes.
The Congress and RJD made significant gains with Congress more than doubling its tally from 6 to 14, and the RJD winning three seats compared to none in the 2014 state elections.
The losses for the BJP were larger in the poorer tribal parts of the state clustered in the southernmost and northeastern parts of Jharkhand. In the northern belt, dominated by other backward classes (OBCs), the BJP seems to have fared better, the trends so far suggest.
According to data from the 2011 Census, there are 28 assembly segments which have a Scheduled Tribes (ST) population of more than 40%. The BJP won just 3 (down from 10) of these 28 seats. On the other side, it won 16 seats (up from 14) in assemblies where the ST population was below 20%.
Cumulatively, it lost 15 seats in assemblies where the ST population was more than 20%. In stark contrast, all the alliance partners made gains in ST-dominated constituencies, and 40% of their aggregate tally came from seats with ST population more than 40%.
It is likely that the failure to deliver on welfare schemes hurt the ruling party in the state. An economic slowdown, which appears to have hit consumption spending in Jharkhand more than other states and persistent unemployment may have added to the anti-incumbency. BJP’s chief minister, Raghubar Das’s struggle to hold on to his own assembly constituency, Jamshedpur East, is testimony to the anger against the local government.
Yet, the inability to stitch an alliance may have been the deciding factor that tilted the scales in favour of the Opposition, helping them win more decisive victories. The JMM-Congress-RJD alliance has won 10 assemblies with more than 20% margin, double that of the BJP.
The BJP, without any alliance partners, failed to convert close contests to victories. In fact, in 25 of the 42 assembly segments where it was a runner-up, the margin of victory was less than 5%.
With the benefit of a three-party alliance, the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance not only won more contests decisively, it lost fewer close contests.
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