Photo: ANI
Photo: ANI

Opinion | The minority, Oppn alliance pose big challenge to BJP

While the BJP govt did well in certain areas, its anti-conversion law antagonized the Church

The outcome of the parliamentary polls in Jharkhand is going to be determined by the Narendra Modi factor, the candidates and the few factors affecting voters. We cannot say there is no Modi factor. National security has become an important issue in public consciousness, which is a pan-India phenomenon.

Unemployment, demonetization and the ill-prepared implementation of goods and services tax (GST) have affected the state economy. However, none of the opposition parties have exploited these issues on a large scale.

People in Jharkhand say development is a factor influencing elections but they fail to pinpoint what development issue is affecting them. Although the concept of Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) has taken off very well in academic circles, the Congress party and its candidates have failed to win over voters with this concept. People are probably not convinced of getting its benefit because of administrative or bureaucratic challenges.

Anti-incumbency is playing out at the constituency level, which could impact the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates. While the BJP succeeded in winning over the majority sentiment, it has failed to mobilize the minority. Earlier, a part of the Christian community used to vote for BJP. Votes from this community are likely to erode further this time as the state is using an anti-conversion law. There have been government advertisements against conversion. That has antagonized the Church. Recently, foreign funding of some of the Church-supported organizations has faced hurdles. Besides, an instance of lynching in the name of cow protection has raised fear among minorities. It is worth remembering that in 2014, only 9% of Muslim community in the state voted for BJP.

The farming community in Jharkhand is small and has benefited from some of the welfare schemes. Most of the farmers cultivate only one crop and in the lean season, they migrate for work. Income from other sources is an important revenue stream for them. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the National Rural Livelihood Mission have helped farmers to improve irrigation and to diversify into horticulture in a large scale. Horticulture production has increased because of the positive impact of these schemes.

Tribals account for 26% of Jharkhand’s population. They may support candidates from their community. The Church may have an influence on the voting preference of those who have got converted to Christianity.

The coalition of the opposition Congress party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), supported by the Rashtriya Janata Dal, has mounted a big challenge to the BJP. Jharkhand is one of the few states where the understanding among the coalition challenging the BJP is strong.

The current government has done very well in certain areas. For example, it succeeded in cracking down on Naxalism. In this election, Naxalism therefore, is not an issue. Also, agriculture has benefited from the expansion of irrigated areas. The state did not get good monsoon last year, which affected employment in the sector. But unemployment is not a very big issue in this election, going by public perception.

Harishwar Dayal is an economist and a professor at St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi University .