Jharkhand shows the tide is turning against BJP and Modi

Both Hindutva as an ideology and its polarising tactics did not work in the tribal-dominated state

Jharkhand shows the tide is turning against BJP and Modi

Zafar Agha

What began in Haryana seems to be turning into a trend for the BJP. The BJP lost majority in Haryana but managed to form the government by hook and crook. Maharashtra slipped out of Modi-Shah’s hands as former ally Shiv Sena walked out of the alliance after the elections.

A bigger shock came with students’ and citizens’ revolt against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Jharkhand election defeat now is a clear signal that the tide is turning against Narendra Modi and his party.

The loss of Jharkhand is quite significant because the tribal-dominated state has overwhelmingly turned its back on the saffron brigade. The JMM-Congress-RJD alliance seems to be heading towards the majority mark.

The BJP is clearly out of the power race by any reckoning. It’s the first clear setback for the BJP after the overwhelming victory of the party in 2019 that brought it back to power at the Centre.

Well, Modi apologists will say Jharkhand has no bearing on the national scene. But it is far from the political reality on the ground. Basically, two very clear trends have surfaced from Haryana down to Jharkhand. First, Modi magic is fast waning. Second, Hindutva politics is losing its sheen and shine.

Narendra Modi has been the mascot of the BJP’s sweep across the country since 2014. There is no doubt that Modi’s charisma had amazingly gripped people who voted for him even after setbacks like Demonetization.

The party has been contesting and winning most of the elections, both the provincial as well as national, only on Modi’s appeal. So, the BJP banked on Narendra Modi to win Jharkhand for the party too. But Jharkhand rebuffed Narendra Modi full and square.

How come Modi failed in Jharkhand? Two factors led to Modi’s nemesis in this tribal state. First, the economy and second the social dynamics. India has had not witnessed the kind of economic crisis at least in the last four decades that it is currently facing.

Rampant job losses, farm distress, depleting growth rate, factories shutting shutters, markets searching consumers, essential commodities like onion brining tears to consumers’ eyes and, now, rising food inflation is the new talk of the town.

The voter is no fool who, after suffering so much of economic distress, will continue to vote for Narendra Modi who has messed with the life of common man. Jharkhand clearly reflects average Indian’s restlessness with the struggling economy of the country.

But it was the same voter who voted Narendra Modi back to power with thumping majority barely six months ago. Economy was not in the pink of health even then. Only a marginal difference in economy has come about between the last parliamentary elections and the Jharkhand Assembly polls.

What is it which is not working for Narendra Modi now? It’s Hindutva that is losing shine now. Modi’s politics is clearly divisive. So, is Hindutva politics which believes in ‘othering’ Muslims in this country.

Modi is the master of this game wherein he brands a minority community as ‘enemy’ and emerges Hindu saviour to win their hearts and minds. It was Balakot in 2019 which propelled Modi to a thumping victory in the parliamentary elections.

But, in Jharkhand, the trick did not work. He tried to project himself as the conquerer of Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 from the Constitution. He tried to sell the Ram temple construction after Supreme Court verdict. He tried all tricks to polarise the Jharkhand elections but failed as the final verdict reflects. Why did Modi fail to polarise Jharkhand?

There were three factors that were not working in his favour. First, the voter priority in Jharkhand was to improve his economic lot. The voter’s ground experience told him that Modi and Raghubar Das both had nothing to offer to him on economic front.

Second, Hindutva in Jharkhand is anti-tribal because the BJP there has built an alliance of non-tribals to keep tribals away from power. It narrowed the BJP’s base in a tribal-dominated state where other poor and marginalised too joined hands with the JMM-Congress alliance. So, both Hindutva as an ideology and its polarising tactics did not work there.

Jharkhand looks like the beginning of the crumbling edifice that Narendra Modi built over the years. It is early to write off Modi yet. But the mood on the streets against CAA are signs of a gathering storm against the BJP and its hero Narendra Modi.

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