Jharkhand Mandate

The poll results in Jharkhand, where the BJP wielded power for the last five years, have surprised some, and have highlighted the point that aggressive nationalism and communal polarisation cannot always deliver the goods. This time, the number of seats obtained by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is less than one third of the total and there is little possibility of overcoming the crisis by buying off some MLAs. The immense money power and the Modi rhetoric have not been able to yield the expected dividends. It is true that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have created a panic among Muslims and have drawn indignation from well-meaning non-Muslims as well, but in Jharkhand, Muslims constitute the determining factor in at most eight to ten constituencies, and their opposition en masse to the BJP cannot be construed as the dominant factor deciding the outcome of the polls. The NRC has, however, caused some anxiety among the adivasis, because the papers demanded by the NRC are in general not supposed to be in the possession of poor tribals, who have become suspicious of the intentions of the Modi-Shah combine. The amendments to earlier tenancy acts have been important as far as the polls are concerned. These amendments are clearly meant to take over tribals' land and hand it over to the corporate bigwigs, and the adivasis seem to have realised this point well. Rights to land, forests and water are of crucial importance in the lives of adivasis. While the former two are curbed, the third remains unsolved. The people have reacted, deciding to teach the BJP a lesson. There are other issues like growing joblessness, closure of numerous factories, price rise etc,which the well laid network of the BJP could not address. Speeches by Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath have been of little use here.To this was added the corrupt pracices of the BJP chieftains at various levels.The economic issues are now too glaring, and they directly affect the lives of the people, despite the continuous attempts by the ruling party to present a distorted picture of the reality. Issues like Rammandir are of no relevance in Jharkhand.Of course, it must not be supposed that the opposition alliance is a deus ex machina capable of lifting the Jharkhandi masses out of their plight. But it cannot be gainsaid that they have chosen wisely between the greater and lesser evils.

Modi is ostensibly frightened at the natiowide hostile reaction to the NRC and the CAA, and in the inaugural speech of his Delhi election campaign, has felt constrained to resort to a blatant lie on the existence of detention camps in the country. His studied silence on the economic issues is a poignant pointer to his plight. Of course,the affluent,and largely corrupt, sections support him.

Urban middle class may opt for Modi and his party in the coming Delhi polls, but if Arvind Kejriwal and his colleagues behave democratically, refrain from committing rash and adventurist mistakes and properly realise the danger of the impending shadows of the fascist raj, there is little chance for Modi to be euphoric in the Delhi assembly polls, because his larger than life image is now deflated. The naked police brutality at the Jamia Millia University, it should be remembered, is a symptom of Modi's weakness, not strength.

Congress has every reason to celebrate the victory in Jharkhand where tribals have refused to buy BJP's false promises. Whether the Gandhians can address the plight of tribals in Jharkhand is a different matter. But the fact of life is that BJP has lost their confidence. With Jharkhand joining the growing list of states slipping out of BJP's rule, the saffronites now govern only 35 percent of the country's landmass in comparison to over 71 percent during its good days in 2017 when it was in power in the entire Hindi-speaking heartland. Indications are that Bihar may go the Jharkhand way. They are now talking in multiple voices on NRC and it only signals BJP's intent to keep the widely condemned issue on hold.


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Vol. 52, No. 27, Jan 5 - 11, 2020