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Soren counters BJP's Ram wave by tapping into Jharkhand's local sentiments

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | January 27, 2024 01:49 PM

Ranchi: On the day of the Pran Pratishtha ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the wave of religious fervour that swept through the Hindi heartland was not limited to just Ayodhya but Jharkhand, with its population of nearly four crore people, was equally immersed in the spirit of Ram.

Every corner of this state was infused with a sense of devotion. If the impact of this surge of emotions continues for the next three to four months, the BJP could hope for enthusiastic results in its favour.

However, on the other hand, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress-RJD coalition, led by Hemant Soren, counters the BJP's Ram wave by tapping into the state's local sentiments, making the battle neither one-sided nor easy here.

Jharkhand has 14 Lok Sabha seats. As of today, 12 of these seats are with the BJP-All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) coalition.

In the 2014 elections, the BJP had won the same number of seats. Despite efforts to focus on emotive issues like the Ram temple this time, maintaining the 2014 and 2019 scores for the third time is a significant challenge.

The state BJP President, Babulal Marandi, claims, "This time, we will win all 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The country is now with the BJP. Just as the BJP achieved victories on tribal majority seats in the Assembly elections of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, similar results will come in the Lok Sabha as well as the state Assembly elections in Jharkhand. The people, troubled by corruption in the Hemant Soren Government, are in the mood to remove him from power."

During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP coalition, led by Raghubar Das in Jharkhand, had a favourable position. The results were in line with expectations -- they won 12 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats and secured a lead in 54 out of the state's 81 Assembly seats in terms of votes.

Encouraged by this, Das had chanted the slogan of 'Abki baar 65 paar' in the subsequent 2019 Assembly elections. However, the coalition led by Hemant Soren turned the tables, defeating the BJP and forming the government.

While leading the government for the last four years, Hemant Soren has taken several decisions for the welfare of tribals and the indigenous people of Jharkhand.

Due to these measures, he has strengthened his grip on the core voters of his party, compared to the previous government.

Despite actions by agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), conflicts with the Raj Bhavan on several important issues, legal and court entanglements related to mining leases, and continuous attacks by the Central and state BJP leaders, Soren has kept the coalition government stable.

Moreover, after each such incident, he engages with his supporters, voters, and activists, launching strong attacks on the Central Government and the BJP.

For instance, when the ED questioned him for nearly seven hours regarding the alleged Ranchi land scam on January 20, immediately afterward, he came out of his residence and stood on the car's bonnet, addressing a large gathering of his supporters and workers, saying, "I have not committed any theft. We have answered all their questions. We will never let Jharkhand fall into the hands of corrupt people. The government was formed with great difficulty. Since its formation, there has been a conspiracy against us. We have thwarted these conspiracies along with the state's development."

Through proposals such as providing a monthly pension of Rs 1,000 to people from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and women of all categories above the age of 50; a seven-year relaxation in the maximum age limit for SC/ST candidates in the JPSC civil services examination; convening a special session of the Assembly to pass the Sarna-Adivasi Dharam Code in the census; reservation of up to 75 per cent for local people in jobs paying up to Rs 40,000 in private companies, and increasing reservation for SC/ST and OBCs, the Hemant Soren government has built a strong narrative in favour of local issues and sentiments.

However, it is difficult to say how effective the Soren Government's campaign will be in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand. There is a short interval of only three to four months between the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Jharkhand, and the voting patterns in both these elections have been quite different.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP received nearly 51 per cent votes in the state.

The JMM and the Congress had to settle for just one seat each. However, in the subsequent Assembly elections a few months later, the BJP's vote share decreased to 33.37 per cent, resulting in the party being ousted from power in the state.

Before this, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had received 41 per cent votes, winning 12 seats. The Congress was completely wiped out from the state, while the JMM had secured only two seats.

In the Assembly elections held in November of the same year, the BJP's vote share remained at 31.28 per cent. However, it won 37 out of 81 seats, forming the government in coalition with AJSU. Two months later, the BJP also managed to bring eight MLAs from Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) into its fold, governing for the full five years.

Senior journalist Surendra Soren said, "The voting pattern in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Jharkhand has never been the same. National issues become quite effective in Lok Sabha elections, while small local issues also play a significant role in reversing results in Assembly elections."

However, this time the BJP has a powerful emotional issue like the Ram temple. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charismatic leadership is also a factor. The party has initiated a strategic campaign at the village and booth levels to influence the masses.

From February 4 to February 11, the party has planned a programme called "Gaon Chalo Abhiyan". During this period, BJP leaders and workers will embark on a 24-hour journey to 32,000 villages across the state.

Amar Bauri, state BJP leader, said, "There is an atmosphere of spontaneous support in every village for Prime Minister Modi's leadership. Party workers will visit every village as Modi's ambassadors. The journey is from the resolution of the Pran Pratishtha ceremony to its fulfillment. There is tremendous enthusiasm among the people."


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