Mineral-rich and poverty-ridden Jharkhand, where many farmers have died of starvation, will go to the polls from 29 April. Two former chief ministers as well as current and former Union ministers are in the election fray. Mint analyses the electoral dynamics of the state.
What is the social structure of the state?
Jharkhand is a relatively young state, having been carved out of Bihar in 2000. It has a population of 32.98 million, of which 22.01 million are eligible to vote. About 85% of people are in the reserved categories, which comprise scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes. This is one of the highest proportions of people in the reserved categories among the 29 states and seven Union territories of India. Extreme poverty inflicts the state, with the country’s per capita income being over 20% higher than that of the state. The difference in literacy rates among males and females in the state is also high, at over 20%.
What are some of the industries operating in the state?
The state is rich in deposits of coal, iron ore, limestone, copper and graphite. It is thus home to many power and steel plants as well as smelters. Both the government and private enterprises own end-use plants such as power and steel, while public sector firms are doing most of the mining. However, many of the industrial processes such as carrying of coal and other raw materials, supply of equipment and transport of end product are controlled by the mafia. This results in damage to the environment, causes harm to health and also leads to the exploitation of people.
Which are the main political parties?
BJP and the All Jharkhand Students Union are constituents of NDA. The Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), and RJD are part of the grand alliance.
What are the important issues?
A large number of people depend on farming. There have been many starvation deaths, as farmers and landless peasants are often forced to borrow at high rates from local moneylenders and are then unable to repay because agriculture is unproductive. Illegal mining and exploitation of labour are rampant. Forest cover forms nearly one-third of the geographical area of the state compared to the India average of 24%. It also provides livelihood to the Adivasis, who live in fear of their land and forest rights being diluted.
Who are the key candidates in the fray?
The state has had several chief ministers, who have influence over voters. BJP’s Annapurna Devi, a crossover from RJD, is up against JVM-P president and former chief minister Babulal Marandi. Arjun Munda, a BJP leader and former chief minister, faces Kalicharan Munda of the Congress in Khunti. In Hazaribagh, Jayant Sinha of BJP will fight against Gopal Sahu of the Congress, a grand alliance candidate. Former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay of the Congress is pitted against BJP’s Sanjay Seth in Ranchi.