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Jharkhand set for 5-phase polls, BJP to take on opposition buoyed by Haryana result

The ruling BJP will likely take on a Congress-JMM alliance in the Jharkhand assembly polls that begin 30 November. Votes will be counted on 23 December.

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New Delhi: The Election Commission Friday announced polls to the Jharkhand assembly, and said voting will take place in five phases, starting 30 November, and counting will take place on 23 December.

The five phases will be held on 30 November and 7, 12, 16 and 20 December, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said.

This will be the third state election to be held since the Lok Sabha elections after Maharashtra and Haryana.

The BJP is in power in the state, which has a large tribal population, and an alliance of opposition parties, mainly the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), is making a determined bid to oust the government headed by Chief Minister Raghubar Das.

Thirteen constituencies will go to the polls in the first phase, 20 in the second phase, 17 in the third, 15 in the fourth phase and 16 constituencies will go to polls in the fifth phase.

Political watchers will keenly follow what happens in Jharkhand as they believe the opposition has been emboldened by the outcome in Maharashtra and Haryana where its numbers have been better than expectations.

How the seats stack up

In the run-up to the 2019 general election, the BJP had put together an alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). The parties are likely to fight the polls together and a seat-sharing formula is expected to be announced soon.

In 2014, the BJP won 12 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, but managed only 37 of 81 seats in the assembly election. The JMM was the largest opposition party in the state with 19 seats, and the Congress won 6.

BJP’s challenges

Among the top poll issues BJP faces is the lynching in Khunti and Seraikela, which has given the opposition ammunition to target the ruling government. The JMM and Congress have also been raising the issue of jobs and the economic slowdown.

The other challenge BJP faces is the fact that Das is not from the dominant tribal community, just like the party’s chief ministerial candidates in Haryana and Maharashtra.

The state unit, though, is confident of doing well and that Jharkhand cannot be compared to Haryana and Maharashtra, where the party didn’t reach the majority mark on its own.

“Raghubar Das is our leader and the face of our party. These talks of tribal and non-tribal are a non-issue. Our party gives CMs from all sections of the society. We are confident of doing well as there is no strong opposition and even the one that is there is in complete disarray. Also, we have given a stable government to the people,” said Sunil Kumar, state general secretary, BJP Jharkhand.

Das is the first state chief minister to have completed the full term of five years in the state, long plagued by fractured mandate and unstable governments.

The Congress, on the other hand, is looking to highlight the Chhattisgarh model of development to win votes in Jharkhand, and CM Bhupesh Baghel is likely to campaign extensively. The party suffered a major setback after the state chief Ajoy Kumar quit to join the Aam Aadmi Party in August.

(With PTI inputs)

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