Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar 14 years ago, accounts for nearly 40 per cent of India's mineral wealth. Yet, the state has performed far below its potential, often troubled by political instability. It has had nine chief ministers and three stints of president's rule in its short history. The strong presence of Maoists has been another cause for concern.
The robust response from the electorate in the first phase of the assembly elections held on November 25 has got all political parties excited. The fourth and final round will take place on December 20. The parties are all out to win over the tribals, who constitute around a quarter of the 3.3 crore population.
In the 2009 elections, the BJP and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha got 18 seats each in the 81-member assembly, while the Congress got 14 seats. Soon after the elections, the BJP and the JMM forged an alliance and BJP leader Arjun Munda became chief minister. The two parties parted ways in January 2013, and Hemant Soren, son of JMM founder Shibu Soren, became the chief minister in July 2013, supported by the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United).
Just after the announcement of the 2014 assembly elections, the JMM-Congress alliance collapsed over seat sharing, and now the state is witnessing a four-cornered fight. The BJP has allied with the All Jharkhand Students Union, while the Congress has the RJD and JD(U) as its partners. The JMM and the Babulal Marandi-led Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) are the other major contenders.
The BJP has announced its Mission 42+ strategy to win an absolute majority and the party believes that the Modi wave, which helped it win 12 of 14 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, will work again. It has given eight seats to the AJSU, one to the Lok Janshakti Party and is contesting the rest of the seats. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are leading the party's campaign. “The huge turnout in the first phase itself speaks volumes of the energy and optimism created by the Modi government in the minds of the people and the BJP is heading towards a thumping majority in the state," says BJP spokesperson Prem Mittal.
The Congress hopes its alliance with the RJD and the JD(U) will prove to be effective, like it did in the recent assembly byelections in Bihar. It has given 18 seats to the RJD and 10 to the JD(U). Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi, RJD leader Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar lead the campaign for the alliance. Both the BJP and the Congress are keeping open their post-poll alliance options.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren leads the JMM campaign by highlighting his government's achievements. His party, which is contesting all 81 seats, is banking heavily on its tribal base. “Our party's manifesto is not just a manifesto," says Soren. It is our pledge to the people."