Jharkhand Elections:
Pressing the ‘Replay’ Button

The Congress had contested the Jharkhand election with the slogan “Chuniye unhe, jinhe desh ne chuna” (elect those who have got the mandate of the nation). It abandoned its former allies JMM and RJD and forged a new partnership with the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha formed by former BJP leader and Jharkhand CM Babulal Marandi. Instead of asking the Jharkhand electorate to vote for the Congress on the basis of the dubious claim that the Congress had got a mandate from the rest of India, the party should have rather offered an explanation as to why the same Congress which with its allies had won all but one LS seat from Jharkhand in 2004 could retain only one seat in the 2009 LS election. More importantly, the Congress had to explain its conduct as the backseat driver of whatever passed for government in Jharkhand for much of the last five years. Instead, the Congress thought it could bluff its way to power by blaming the ‘independents’ and its former allies for the scams and mess in Jharkhand.
On his part, Marandi too performed a big somersault to take his political journey from the BJP to the fold of the Congress. As recently as during the May 2009 LS election he was claiming to provide a non-BJP, non-Congress alternative in the politics of Jharkhand, but came the Assembly election and here was Marandi joining hands with the Congress and that too for less than a quarter of the state’s seats. While the Congress and JVM jointly fought the elections, the Governor shelved all his gubernatorial protocol to work overtime as a Congress campaigner, trying to hard sell the Congress-JVM combine to the Jharkhand electorate. The Governor gave interviews to the media arguing that only big national parties could deliver political stability and economic development! The BJP too adopted a largely similar stance, except it also blamed the Congress along with the ‘independents’ and smaller parties for all the evils that plague Jharkhand.
Now the election results have left both the Congress and the BJP in a most unenviable position. The BJP can have the consolation of having retained the ‘largest party’ status, but it is no longer an exclusive slot for the BJP. The BJP and JMM have both finished on top with 18 seats each, followed by the Congress and its new-found ally, JVM, which have 14 and 11 seats to their credit respectively. By contrast, ‘others’ have once again managed to win as many as 13 seats, and barring the two seats won by the CPI(ML) and the Marxist Co-ordination Committee, the remaining 11 seats in this catch-all category have all been won by the same independents, most of whom have now formed small parties of their own. The AJSU has won as many as five seats; and most of the legislators currently languishing in jail and/or accused of holding property disproportionate to their known sources of income, have returned to the Assembly as victorious members.
This clearly means that neither of the two major pre-poll coalitions are anywhere near the magic mark of 41 seats in an Assembly of 81 – the Congress-JVM combine has fallen 16 short while the BJP-JDU combine needs another 21 seats to reach that magic figure. The key obviously lies with the JMM and the smaller parties. If the JMM throws its lot in with the BJP, the combine can easily stake its claim to form government. Likewise, a possible resurrection of the old UPA (Congress, JMM, RJD and some of the smaller parties and independents) can also muster up majority, the catch being the Congress will probably have to part ways with the JVM to woo the JMM back into its fold. It will be interesting to see how the ‘big national’ parties sell them again to regional forces and ‘independents’ and small partners who all are waiting in the wings to drive a hard bargain.
Several parties from the neighbouring states of UP (BSP and SP), Bihar (LJP) and West Bengal (TMC) had contested the polls in Jharkhand but failed to open their accounts. The CPI and CPI(M) too once again drew a blank and also lost whatever little credibility they had, thanks to their weird notion of forging ‘Left unity’ under the leadership of the RJD! Once again it will be the CPI(ML) and MCC led by Comrade AK Roy who will account for the Left camp inside the Assembly. It should be noted that the CPI(ML) had extended support to the MCC in Nirsa (which it won) and Sindri (where it finished second) in Dhanbad district in lieu of MCC’s support to the CPI(ML) candidate in Mandu (where the CPI(ML) nominee finished third).
If the last one year of President’s Rule had put Jharkhand on the ‘pause’ mode with the Assembly kept under suspended animation, the elections have only pressed the ‘replay’ button. As all the burning issues cry for urgent answers and the ruling classes’ fond dream of political stability remains elusive, the people of Jharkhand will have to press ahead with their fighting initiative. For the CPI(ML), the tasks remain clearly cut out as the party will have to intensify its role as the boldest voice of people’s struggle in the turbulent state.