The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced electoral defeat in the Jharkhand assembly elections on Monday, with chief minister Raghubar Das’s loss from Jamshedpur East, which he has won at least five times in the past, making matters worse for the party.
The only consolation for the BJP was that it managed to increase its vote share from 31% last in 2014 assembly elections to 33.37% in 2019.
The defeat in Jharkhand comes just seven months after the BJP won 11 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state and became the most dominant party in Jharkhand. The defeat also comes close in the heels of the party failing to form the government in Maharashtra.
“The trend that this election reveals is that people are ready to look beyond the BJP if the performance of the ruling party is not good enough. People have become more demanding and the anti-incumbency factor can impact the electoral performance of the party," said a senior BJP leader involved in the election strategy.
The setback in Jharkhand is crucial for the central leadership of the party in Delhi because Das was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the chief minister’s post after the 2014 elections.
“The party has lost two crucial allies in the last few months. The All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) party walked out of the alliance with BJP just before the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which was making unreasonable demands, also walked out of the coalition," the BJP leader said.
The defeat in the Jharkhand elections is also significant for BJP because this is the first time since the state was formed that it is not the single largest party in Jharkhand.
However, BJP leaders put up a brave face and said that although the party polled the most votes, this did not translate into a majority of seats. “It’s not easy to return to power all the time. Even after five years of government in the state along with possible anti-incumbency and alliances by Opposition parties, the BJP has increased its vote share substantially," said a senior BJP leader who was part of the party’s election campaign.
BJP members point out that though the Congress has joined hands with regional parties to defeat the BJP in Jharkhand and form the government in Maharashtra, the governments of the two states would not be stable and these alliances have been tried by the people in the past as well.
“There is no doubt that the BJP lost the election but the vote share of the party has increased, meaning that there is more support for the BJP in Jharkhand. The Congress along with regional parties can form the government with allies, but the alliance has been tried in the past and this political alliance does not survive," the BJP leader said.
“The alliance of the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has been tried in the past and failed miserably. There is one contradictory alliance in Maharashtra between the Shiv Sena and the Congress. Though these parties have formed the government just to keep the BJP out, Congress-led alliances have never provided a stable government," the leader said.
BJP members believe that the more Opposition parties form unstable governments in different states, the stronger the party will become. “The Congress has become a party of alliances because it cannot form the government on its own in any state. The BJP has grown because people have realised that the Congress cannot provide a stable government in states and at the national level that is why the majority of people continue to vote for the BJP and the vote share of the party has been increasing," the BJP leader said.