In what appears to be a mysteriousdisappearance of all voices of dissent and all anger against the anti-tribal policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led State government, Jharkhand has once again reposed its faith in the party. It won 12 seats out of 14 in the State in a repeat of its 2014 tally, literally translating the party’s battle cry, “Phir ek baar, Modi sarkar” into reality.
The Congress-led alliance, comprising the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha Party (JVMP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), failed to retrieve the ground it lost in the tribal State despite a visible discontent against the BJP governments at the Centre and in the State. The biggest surprise of this election was that the JMM founder and the voice of tribal people, Shibu Soren, lost his Dumka seat to the BJP’s Sunil Soren by 47,590 votes.
Yet another surprise was the defeat of Kalicharan Munda of the Congress from the Khunti Lok Sabha constituency. Khunti is the birth place of the pathalgadhi movement, representing tribal anger against the State government’s proposed changes to the tenancy laws in the State. The alliance’s vote arithmetic was such that it could not have gone wrong. Yet, the seat was won by former Chief Minister Arjun Munda by 1,098 votes.
Of the 14 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP won 11 (vote share: 50.96 per cent of the votes polled), while its ally, the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), won one seat. The Congress and the JMM won one seat each. The Congress’ Geeta Koda, wife of former Chief Minister Madhu Koda, who is in jail on corruption charges, won the Singhbhum seat defeating State BJP president Laxman Giluwa by over 72,000 votes. The JMM won the Rajmahal seat, where its nominee, Vijay Kumar Hasdak, defeated the BJP’s Hemlal Murmu by 99,195 votes.
Yet another shocker was the defeat of Babulal Marandi, founder of the JVMP, who lost from his stronghold, Kodarma, to the BJP’s Annapurna Devi by a whopping 4,55,600 votes.
Interestingly, Annapurna Devi was the State RJD president and had crossed over to the BJP shortly before the election. She is widely perceived as the BJP’s nominee for chief ministership after the next round of Assembly elections.
BJP insiders say that the party high command is not too happy with the present Chief Minister, Raghubar Das.
Lohardaga is another seat where the defeat of the Congress candidate Sukhdeo Bhagat surprised everyone. His victory was a foregone conclusion given the constituency’s social profile and the consolidation of anti-BJP votes. He, however, lost to his BJP rival Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Tribal Welfare Minister, by 9,459 votes.
Two seats which the Congress gifted to the BJP on a platter were Hazaribagh and Dhanbad. The Congress fielded Gopal Sahu in Hazaribagh against the BJP’s candidate Union Minister Jayant Sinha, son of Yashwant Sinha. Sahu was a complete outsider from Ranchi who enjoyed no rapport whatsoever with the local population. It was no surprise that he lost by 4,79,540 votes.
Another seat that the Congress lost was Dhanbad where it fielded Kirti Azad, who had defected from the BJP. He lost to the veteran P.N. Singh of the BJP by a whopping 4,86,194 votes. Local Congress workers had toldFrontline even before the results were declared that the seat would go to the BJP. “He did not show any interest in campaigning,” they said.
But this was not true of yet another VIP seat, Ranchi, where the Congress’ Subodh Kant Sahay, former Union Minister, lost to Sanjay Seth of the BJP, who was contesting an election for the first time. Seth is a businessman and his claim to fame was that he was the Khadi Board chairman in Ranchi. Sahay lost by 2,83,026 votes.
A shell-shocked Sahay said the results were yet to sink in. “This was not what we saw on the ground,” he said. JMM general secretary Vinod Pandey seconded Sahay and said the results looked so unrealistic that they almost seem “fabricated.”