In a significant impetus to BJP’s prospects in the state of Jharkhand, former Chief Minister, Babulal Marandi has announced his return to the BJP fourteen years after severing ties with the party.
He has declared the immediate merger of his party- Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) with the BJP. Marandi said, “A formal merger ceremony will take place on February 17 at Jagannathpur Maidan, which is also known as Prabhat Tara Maidan, in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda and BJP vice-president Om Prakash Mathur.”
The former Chief Minister is the only legislator in the JVM (P), as the party has expelled two lawmakers who had rebelled against it.
Prima facie, it might not seem like such a significant move given that the BJP has 25 MLAs in the 81-Member strong Assembly. But the move is going to have larger political repercussions in the Maoist-hit state.
It is important to mention here that even more than two months after the announcement of Legislative Assembly polls in Jharkhand, the BJP has not appointed its legislature party leader.
The party had been hoping that the former Jharkhand CM, Babulal Marandi will return to its fold and had therefore been delaying the appointment of the legislature party leader.
During the Jharkhand polls, the BJP had projected a non-tribal face, former Chief Minister, Raghubar Das the CM candidate. This led to the party losing substantially in the tribal dominated areas of the state. The party won only two out of 28 such seats in the state of Jharkhand.
Babulal Marandi’s return to the BJP fold is therefore a major course correction for the party. Babulal Marandi was the first tribal Chief Minister of the state of Jharkhand, something that is going to augur really well for the BJP which would want to make a strong comeback in the tribal dominated areas.
The President of what will now be the erstwhile JVM (P), Babulal Marandi was an RSS worker when he first rose in the state in the late 1990s.
He had also defeated the JMM chief, Shibu Soren in the 1998 Lok Sabha Elections, which shows the kind of popularity that he has traditional enjoyed in the tribal dominated areas of Jharkhand.
The BJP has been trying to bring him back into the party fold ever since the 2014 Assembly polls. And the reasons are for everyone to see after the 2019 polls.
Even though Marandi’s party won only 3 seats, its presence itself was a factor that seems to have hurt the BJP in tribal majority constituencies. Similarly, the AJSU, another former ally of the BJP in Jharkhand, also garnered 8.10 per cent vote share. Reportedly, the AJSU too is sending feelers to the BJP, which can aid it further BJP’s reach in the tribal areas of the state.
Babulal Marandi’s party and AJSU had cut into BJP’s vote share significantly. That is going to change as Marandi has already returned to the BJP fold and AJSU is sending feelers. With Marandi back in the party fold, BJP has got a major shot in the arm as far as the state of Jharkhand is concerned.