While union minister and senior BJP leader, Rajnath Singh, has said that the BJP will form a majority government in Jharkhand, observers have cast doubts over that possibility
The election in Jharkhand, political observers say, was already a complicated affair for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the party having to tackle a number of issues both within and outside the party machinery.
To add to that, BJP's performance in Haryana and Maharashtra— and then its eventual fallout— has compounded matters.
At the centre of all this, and helming the BJP's campaign, is Chief Minister Raghubar Das. From being employed at Tata Steels to occupying the top post and being the first non-tribal chief minister of a state that has 26 percent tribal population, Das has had quite a journey. But in order to continue that journey ahead, Das has had to, and will have to, tackle a number of challenges.
In an 81-member Assembly, the BJP has set for itself an ambitious target of winning more than 65 seats. However, with the party facing infighting on the issue of distribution of tickets, that figure, observers have said, seems difficult for the BJP to achieve.
In that context, Jamshedpur (East) would be the most keenly watched contest because it is Das' constituency and up against him is a former cabinet minister in his government, Sarayu Roy.
Roy, who is a senior BJP leader, is contesting with support from the Janata Dal (United) and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). Interestingly, JD(U) is BJP's alliance partner in Bihar while JMM has tied up with Congress for the assembly polls. While Congress has fielded its own candidate — party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh— the JMM chose to offer support to Roy.
Reports have also suggested that with the rising popularity of the Arjun Munda camp within the party, if Das is unable to attain the required figure, Munda could be pushed as the alternative CM face. Munda, who is currently a Union minister, is a prominent tribal face in the state and has been the chief minister of Jharkhand before.
A Hindustan Times report suggests that certain sections within Jharkhand BJP are also unhappy over Das being offered a second term. However, party functionaries told the newspaper that the central leadership has, for now, thrown its weight behind Das.
That Das is the first non-tribal to occupy the CM's post in Jharkhand might also go against him. Making him the first non-tribal CM in the state was part of the BJP high command's strategy to install unconventional faces to the top post in different states.
In Haryana and Maharashtra, for instance, the BJP installed Manohar Lal Khattar and Devendra Fadnavis respectively. Both Khattar and Fadnavis did not belong to the politically influential Jat and Maratha communities.
The strategy does not seem to have yielded expected results for the BJP in Haryana and Maharashtra, and Das would be hoping that Jharkhand proves to be an exception.
Moreover, Das is also facing opposition from the tribal population over Land Acquisition Bill (2017) and amendments to the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPTA) and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CTA).
Another factor common between Maharashtra and Jharkhand is the alliance trouble for the BJP.
While in Maharashtra, the trouble started after the results were announced, in Jharkhand, BJP's alliance partner, the All Jharkhand Student's Union (AJSU) has decided to go solo after the two parties were unable to reach a seat-sharing arrangement.
While Union minister and senior BJP leader, Rajnath Singh, has said the BJP will form a majority government in Jharkhand, observers have cast doubts over that possibility. In 2014, the BJP had won 37 seats while the AJSU had won five seats.
AJSU, led by Sudesh Mahto, has been the BJP's long-time ally, but Mahto is now highlighting that his party has really broken away from its alliance partner and that the two parties are not indulging in shadow-boxing. His contention, according to reports, is that his party has not been treated with respect by the BJP.
Interestingly, that is also the reason why BJP's other two alliance partners in Bihar and at the Centre— JD(U) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)— decided to contest alone in Jharkhand.
Apart from these, the worry within the BJP and for Das, reports suggest, is also that since the issue of abrogation of Article 370 did not seem to have worked for the party during the Haryana and Maharashtra polls, it won't have much of an effect during the Jharkhand polls either.What probably works for Das, observers have stated, is that he has managed to provide a stable government to the state for the first time since it was formed. Das is the first chief minister to complete a full term in the office.LIVE NOW... Video series on How to Double Your Monthly Income... where Rahul Shah, Ex-Swiss Investment Banker and one of India's leading experts on wealth building, reveals his secret strategies for the first time ever. Register here to watch it for FREE.