BJP Suffers Tribal Seat Drought in Jharkhand

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Congress and JMM secure tribal strongholds of Dumka, Rajmahal, Chaibasa, Lohardaga, and Khunti

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – Despite clinching a majority of seats in Jharkhand during the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced a significant setback in securing any of the five Scheduled Tribe (ST)-reserved seats in the state. The loss in key tribal constituencies such as Dumka, Rajmahal, Chaibasa, Lohardaga, and Khunti marks a notable shift in tribal voting patterns, challenging the party’s influence in these regions.

The defeat of former Union Minister Arjun Munda in Khunti, where he lost to Congress’s Kalichran Munda, underscores the BJP’s struggle to maintain its grip on ST seats. Munda’s loss is particularly poignant given his prominent stature in Jharkhand politics.

Similarly, victories for Congress’s Sukhdeo Bhagat in Lohardaga and former Jharkhand minister Jobha Manjhi in Chaibasa over Geeta Koda, who recently switched to the BJP, signify a discernible shift in voter sentiment toward opposition parties in tribal strongholds.

In the highly anticipated Dumka seat, the BJP faced defeat as Sita Soren, who joined the BJP after leaving the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), lost to the latter’s Nalin Soren. Vijay Hansda’s retention of the Rajmahal seat for the third consecutive term further consolidates the party’s hold on tribal-dominated constituencies.

Analysts attribute the BJP’s failure to secure ST seats to various factors, including the arrest of former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a land scam case. The wave of sympathy generated by Soren’s arrest likely influenced voter decisions, impacting the BJP’s prospects in the state.

Additionally, the unresolved issue of the Sarna code, a demand for a separate religious code by tribal communities, contributed to tribal voters distancing themselves from the BJP. Despite repeated appeals, the BJP-led Centre has yet to address this demand, leading to disillusionment among tribal voters.

In response to the election outcome, BJP spokesperson Pradip Sinha acknowledged the party’s need for introspection regarding its failure to secure ST seats. Internal conflicts within the BJP are also speculated to have played a role in the party’s poor performance in tribal constituencies.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren attributed the success of the INDIA bloc in tribal areas to strong public support. “Your unwavering support for alliance candidates, despite the false accusations and propaganda, is invaluable to us. They (BJP) tried to silence our voices but failed,” he remarked, emphasising the significance of tribal voters’ backing for opposition candidates.

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