Undivided Bihar saw heated widespread protests by the end of the 80s and 90s, for the formation of a new state based on the Tribal identity. However, the ones who raised the demand for a separate state are today entrenched in corruption cases. The cost of this is being paid by the tribals of the state, who had been reduced to just a vote bank in the past 20 years. However, the Bhartiya Janata Party is making inroads into the Tribal belts of the Jharkhand in order to end the hegemony of the so-called Adivasi parties.
BJP: A non-Tribal party in a Tribal state
Every nation or state is carved out on some basis, be it language, culture, or religion. Often, the basis on which the state is carved or formed becomes the identity of that particular state. The same has happened with Jharkhand.
It was formed to honour and preserve the tribal identity of the indigenous communities living in the region. The outfits that orchestrated protests demanding the separation of the state later became the sole powers after gaining statehood.
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Parties banking on tribal identities contested and won elections ensuring the indigenous communities of growth and prosperity in the state. However, all that the ‘tribal parties’ did for the community is no more than what Congress did for Muslims. The communities were reduced to just vote banks for these parties.
National parties slowly made inroads into the states, while Congress still thrives on the shoulders of Shibu Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. BJP should be credited for being the first party to give a non-tribal CM to the state who became the first CM in office to complete his tenure. Despite having such feathers in its cap, the saffron party lost the state to the Congress-JMM alliance.
A major factor behind BJP’s loss- Tribals
There were several reasons behind the saffron party’s loss. One of the major being tribal backlash. It is a well known fact that BJP’s selection of a non-tribal chief minister angered the tribals of the state as they considered it an attack on their identity.
Jharkhand is a state, 27 per cent of whose population is constituted by the tribals. The indigenous communities often referred to as the Scheduled Tribes, influence 28 out of 81 assembly seats of the state. Also, they do influence almost three to four more seats heavily.
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The anger was further fuelled by the dilution of the state’s Tenancy act and softening of Land Acquisition act of 2018. The aforementioned reforms resulted in resentment in the tribal population caused due to widespread fear that these reforms would make the acquisition of tribal land easier.
The resentment against the incumbent BJP government further increased after CM Raghubar Das promised an OBC reservation of 14 per cent to counter the Tribal bloc. The opposition played its cards too well, Congress outdid Raghubar’s plan by promising 27 per cent reservation. Analysts believe that the strategy did benefit the grand old party.
All of this came together and cost the saffron party in the assembly elections 2019. BJP that won 11 seats in 2014 from the Tribal belt was reduced to just two in the 2019 elections. While the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance grabbed 25 out of 28 seats.
BJP in no mood to repeat mistake
This is the time that BJP finally has an opportunity to make inroads into the tribal belts of the state, as the chief minister of the state and JMM chief Hemant Soren is mired in legal challenges. The BJP in this situation is sensing an opportunity to gain political advantages.
Recently, BJP national President JP Nadda was in Ranchi where he addressed a public meeting. Nadda attacked Soren calling him synonymous with corruption. He attempted to reach out to the tribal community of the state, promising their upliftment through central welfare schemes.
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The BJP has devised a strategy to woo the tribal voters in the state and it has two components. Firstly, attacking the Soren government for its wrong deeds, and secondly, by strengthening the saffron party’s base in the state. This must be done especially in constituencies having strong tribal influence, as the urban pockets are already a strong hold of the BJP. The method is surely going to reap fruits for the BJP as the state has already suffered the wrath of former CM Madhu Koda.
Nadda in his speech made the mention of freedom fighters that belonged to the tribal community and asserted that the BJP is indebted to them for taking on the Britishers. By hailing the likes of Sidho Kanho in a state like Jharkhand, the agenda of the BJP to strengthen its credentials among the tribal population can be well understood.
In the current scenario, there are two major political forces in the state, JMM and the BJP. While JMM in drowned in corruption cases till its neck, it is the time for BJP to begin wooing the non-Munda tribal communities in the state. At a time when the situation of Hemant Soren is way to vulnerable, the BJP is projecting leaders like Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda to strengthen its credentials.
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