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OPINION | Post Jharkhand Debacle, BJP Needs to Put its House in Order Ahead of Bengal, UP Elections

While the BJP is still getting votes in the name of Narendra Modi, people have started to ask questions to the local leadership about their future agenda and roadmaps.

Ramanand Nand |

Updated:December 24, 2019, 6:25 PM IST
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OPINION | Post Jharkhand Debacle, BJP Needs to Put its House in Order Ahead of Bengal, UP Elections
File photo of PM Narendra Modi campaigning with outgoing Raghubar Das in Jharkhand ahead of the elections.

As I write this piece, the Assembly election results in Jharkhand are out and the picture is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had to let go off yet another state. The Jharkhand results follow the trend we saw in the recent Maharashtra and Haryana elections.

After the decisive victory in the general elections, a confident BJP faced the electorate in Maharashtra and Haryana again. Though it won the largest number of seats in both the states, it could not form governments on its own. In Haryana, it allied with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) to come to power, while in Maharashtra, it failed to take charge despite having a pre-poll deal with decades-old ally Shiv Sena. The state now has a coalition government of the Shiv Sena, Congress and National Congress Party with Uddhav Thackeray as the chief minister.

The opinion polls had not predicted a positive picture for the saffron camp in Jharkhand, but the party’s top leadership seemed confident. BJP leaders tried to bank on national issues during campaigns and win over voters.

In all these states, the BJP had contested the previous Assembly elections in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and after winning a majority, put new faces in the CM’s chair. The leadership had aimed to break the traditional caste equations in the states and provide new leadership to the party.

This time, the BJP followed the template of bringing top leaders from other parties into its fold and giving them tickets. However, voters seemed fed up with this traditional ploy employed by political parties, and turncoats were shown the door in the most of the seats in Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

It was once considered good election strategy to give seats to heavyweights of other parties to deal with infighting within one’s own party. However, it faltered big time for the saffron camp with a senior minister in the last BJP government deciding to contest and finally winning the traditional party stronghold against outgoing chief minister Raghubar Das.

The issue of ticket distribution is always a big headache of all political parties, but the BJP seemed to have done away with it after the Modi-Amit Shah duo took centre stage. This scenario is perhaps changing very quickly.

What the results tell us?

Despite all the efforts of the Opposition, BJP is still the single-largest party in most of the states and second-largest party in Jharkhand in terms of seats. This indicates the change in the strategy of the opposition, which is now more united and combative when compared to previous elections.

Most of the national parties do not pose a serious challenge to the BJP at the moment and they are mainly fighting for their survival. Sometimes, this is resulting in alliances with traditional rivals as well. In some states, it is yielding the desired results, while in others, it isn't.

After Bihar (the Congress, Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD and Janata Dal United had jointly contested against the BJP in the last Assembly polls), Jharkhand’s results reveal that a pre-poll alliance among opposition parties can do the needful.

The importance of local leadership has emerged as a dominant factor in these elections. All the national parties need is a strong regional leader with a clear vision for the states.

The Congress is still miles away from the finishing line, but the BJP seems to be exhausted and that is the crux of the last three state election results.

Lessons for BJP

While the BJP is still getting votes in the name of Modi, people have started to ask questions to the local leadership about their future agenda and roadmaps.

The macro-management is not working in the states, not in Jharkhand at least. Instead of copying the working style of the central leadership, the BJP needs to develop some state module which it can demonstrate before voters. The Gujarat model is fading from people's memory.

The party is also facing a leadership issue. Even in a tribal-majority state like Jharkhand, the BJP has not been able to groom tribal leaders adequately. It also faced issues like ticket distribution. In Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, many aspirants were denied tickets to accommodate rebels from other parties.

Projection of leaders that was considered an advantage for the BJP in some of the states is now becoming a point of worry. Many state leaders are feeling deserted due to a CM face. While the Congress is slowly trying to learn from its mistakes, the BJP continues to rely on this particular strategy.

Though these were non-issues with the BJP before, it is now having to deal with it. At least in the state elections, the BJP needs to take a call on its ticket distribution system and put its house in order before the Bengal and Uttar Pradesh elections.

(The author is director of Center of Policy Research and Governance. Views are personal.)

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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