Ranchi/Dhanbad: Jharkhand has been a state for 19 years now, and already, a non-tribal chief minister is completing a full five-year term. But BJP’s Raghubar Das knows this is not something he can bank on in the ongoing Jharkhand elections.
Political analysts say that apart from anti-incumbency, Das is battling a strong perception of being “arrogant” and “high-handed”, which, to some extent, has been perpetuated by his own party leaders due to factionalism and denial of tickets. Tribals, who account for a major chunk of the state’s voters, are also opposing Das’ second shot at power.
Wherever one goes in Jharkhand, one hears a common refrain about Das — “unka ravaiyya achha nahin hain. Bahut akad hai, milte nahin hain (His attitude is not right. He is very arrogant, and not accessible)”. Press further for specific instances of his alleged “arrogance”, though, and people go mum.
In the Jharkhand BJP, however, Das’ colleagues are more vocal and say he has alienated himself from his party because of his behaviour.
“He is very unpopular, does not take other leaders along. He does not consult anybody in the party while taking decisions. He speaks rudely to us. We have been humiliated many times. We can’t meet him easily,” said a BJP state leader who did not want to be named.
No improvement in governance
Analysts say there hasn’t been much improvement in governance in the five years Das has been in power.
“There hasn’t been any substantial intervention from the government. The state has failed to attract investors despite organising an investors’ meet,” said Professor B.K. Sinha, head of the department of political science, St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi.
Ranchi was to be developed as a smart city, but not much has happened here. “The traffic situation here is always a nightmare. You will see garbage dumped in the open regularly. The widening of NH-33, connecting Ranchi to Kolkata, has been in the works for the last 10 years,” said Dwarka Prasad, a resident of Hatia, adjoining Ranchi.
Opposition from within
The CM’s image may or may not matter much electorally, but the BJP’s internal opposition to Das could play a part.
Ticket distribution has created a lot of resentment — some accuse Das of denying tickets to deserving candidates who have sweated it out for the party.
“He has given tickets to his coterie and those who have defected from other parties. This has alienated many within the party who have joined hands with the opposition,” the leader quoted above said.
Another leader said: “It’s BJP versus BJP”.
The second leader pointed out the case of Saryu Roy, who is fighting independently after being denied a BJP ticket. Roy is contesting against the CM from Jamshedpur East.
Other senior leaders who have left the BJP include former minister Bainath Ram and sitting MLAs Phoolchand Mandal and Tala Marandi. The first two joined the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) while Marandi joined the All Jharkhand Students Union.
“MLAs considered close to (Union cabinet minister) Arjun Munda were also denied tickets,” the second leader said.
However, a section of BJP leaders see Das’ “arrogance” as a sign of a strong leader. “He has emerged as a strong CM, someone who is in total control of the government. He knows that he has a majority and does not need to depend on others for stability. He also knows he has the backing of the top two — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah,” said a third BJP leader.
Analysts also say Das faces opposition from disgruntled tribals, who constitute 26 per cent of Jharkhand’s population.
The government’s (unsuccessful) attempts to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, which restrict the sale of tribal land to non-tribals, have alienated the community. “The tribals have turned against the BJP as they think the government is trying to grab their land. This has stirred sentiments,” said a fourth BJP leader.
Das not bothered about criticism
Speaking to ThePrint, Das said he is not bothered about criticism. “This is the way of the world. Nobody will say that a CM has worked hard, done a lot of work. People will always criticise, irrespective of the work he or she has done,” he said.
Asked about the resentment among BJP workers, Das said there are always grievances after ticket distribution. “It dies down on its own,” he said.
On his government’s anti-tribal image, Das said it was the opposition’s propaganda against him.
“It’s the Congress and JMM [Jharkhand Mukti Morcha] who have exploited tribals the most and filled their coffers. I am saying it openly that Hemant Soren’s family has violated the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act the most,” the CM said.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)