By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) With the formal divorce between the AJSU and BJP in Jharkhand, the saffron party has its strategy ready: Don’t make Raghubar Das the party face; let PM Modi and Amit Shah take the lead and harp more on national issues than focus on achievements of the state government.
After November 13, the last day of nomination for Jharkhand, the split between the two warring allies in Jharkhand became official. Even the JD-U and LJP — two NDA constituents — decided to go solo. Hence, the BJP has decided to mount an aggressive campaign, confident of an advantage in a 3-way fight.
But the biggest roadblock for the party remains its chief ministerial face: Raghubar Das whose unpopularity even within the state BJP has reached the ears of both BJP working president J.P. Nadda and President Amit Shah.
Sources say a conscious decision has been taken to keep the BJP’s CM face not in the foreground. “We know there is disenchantment with him. But accepting that before election will be suicidal. He is our ‘Ram Chandra'”, joked a senior BJP leader.
But there are enough hints to suggest that, in spite of having a CM face, it’s the Prime Minister Narednra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah who will take the lead in Jharkhand campaign. When asked how many rallies the PM will address, a BJP leaders told IANS, “All I can say at this point is that from booth presidents to the Prime Minister, all will be active in the campaign”.
But sources say, the PM will hold more rallies in Jharkhand than he held in either Maharashtra or Haryana.
The BJP will make abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and development of the two Union territories as the main issues which may find frequent mention in Modis’ campaign speeches in the state, sources said.
A BJP insider said the party has evaluated that it is more likely to benefit in the eastern state from national muscular issues than by talking about local concerns. The abrogation of the contentious Article also found mention in Maharashtra and Haryana elections. But this time, both PM and Shah are likely to talk about J&K’s economic rejuvenation, growing apple trade and growing connect with the mainland, which may find emotional resonance in Jharkhand.
“Our findings say people of Jharkhand feel “connected” with the issue of abrogation of Article 370″, said a BJP general secretary requesting anonymity.
The other issue that Prime Minister Modi, Shah and top Central and state leaders would talk about will be how the BJP has been able to deliver a “stable government” in the state, said a BJP source.
Despite Jharkhand being the country’s hub for coal mining and minerals, the state’s governance in the past was held to ransom because of frequent political instability.
Till 2013, Jharkahnd saw eight governments and four chief ministers — Babulal Marandi (Nov 2000 to March 2003), Arjun Munda (2003/2005/2010), Shibu Soren (2005/2008/2009) and Madhu Koda (2006) from November 15, 2000 when it came to existence. Small parties and independents who would switch sides and bring down government hampered growth of one of India’s most mineral-rich states.
When PM Modi will deliver his speeches, he is likely to stress the contrast a BJP government has provided where it ran a full term without any glitches. It is the ‘stability vs instability’ card that both Modi and Shah are likely to play throughout their campaign, say sources.
However, many BJP leaders accept that winning Jharkhand would not be as easy as it was in 2014. But the party also knows that there is a growing young population inclined towards it and also a generation tired of witnessing governments falling easily. To exploit that advantage, the BJP is keen to put its most trusted man forward: Narendra Modi.