Assembly elections for all 81 constituencies in Jharkhand were held in five phases from November 30 to December 20. The results for all seats will be announced on December 23.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the governing party in Jharkhand, contested the elections on its own. Earlier, the BJP had been in an alliance with the All Jharkhand Students’ Union and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha. The Congress had formed a pre-poll alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Other parties, such as the All Jharkhand Students’ Union, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, and National Democratic Alliance constituents Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party contested the polls on their own.
The BJP’s chief ministerial face is the incumbent Raghubar Das, while the Opposition alliance has projected Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Hemant Soren as their candidate for the post. Das is contesting the polls from the Jamshedpur East constituency. Soren is a candidate from two seats – Barhait and Dumka.
In the fray
Thirteen constituencies had voted in the first phase on November 30, with a 64.66% voter turnout. As much as 63.36% of the electorate voted in the second phase on December 7, for 20 Assembly constituencies.
In the third phase of polling in 17 constituencies on December 12, 62.03% of the electorate cast their ballot. The voting percentage in the fourth phase in 15 constituencies on December 16 was 62.66%. The fifth and final phase of the polling on December 20, comprising 16 seats, saw the highest voter turnout at 71.44%, according to the Election Commission’s Voter Turnout app.
State Health Minister and BJP leader Ramchandra Chandravanshi, who contested from Bishrampur, and state Congress chief Rameshwar Oraon fighting from Lohardaga, were among the major candidates in the fray in the first phase. Raghubar Das, Assembly Speaker Dinesh Oraon, Rural Development Minister Neelkanth Singh Munda and Janata Dal United state president Salkhan Murmu were the important candidates in the second phase.
In the third phase, important candidates included former Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, Urban Development Minister CP Singh and Education Minister Neera Yadav. Two incumbent ministers – Land and Revenue Minister Amar Kumar Bauri and Labour Minister Raj Paliwar – were in the fray during the fourth phase.
In the fifth phase, Hemant Soren – from both Dumka and Barhait – and Agriculture Minister Randhir Singh of the BJP were the main candidates.
Most exit polls have predicted that the Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Rashtriya Janata Dal will win more seats than the BJP. The India Today-My Axis poll predicted that the Opposition alliance will win 38 to 50 constituencies of the state’s 81, while the BJP will win only 22 to 32, down from the 37 it won in the 2014 elections.
The Times Now exit poll gave the Opposition alliance a comfortable majority of 44 seats, while the BJP is predicted to fall to a tally of 28 seats. The IANS-CVoter-ABP exit poll, however, suggested that the results could throw up a hung Assembly, with the Opposition alliance winning anything between 28 to 39 constituencies, with the ruling party getting 28 to 36 seats. Smaller parties – the All Jharkhand Students’ Union and the Babulal Marandi-led Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) – can win six to seven seats, it added.
The VDP Associates poll predicted a close contest, with the Opposition alliance bagging 37 seats, and 35 for the BJP. According to Spick Media Network, the Opposition alliance will win 42 seats – the Congress 10, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha 30 and the Rashtriya Janata Dal two seats. It predicted the BJP will manage to win in only 27 constituencies.
Besides Raghubar Das, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP Working President JP Nadda and Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were some of the main campaigners for the party in the state.
The BJP initially focused its campaign on the development done under the Das regime. However, later, it ran a campaign based on the abolition of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, and the promise to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya once a Supreme Court verdict cleared the decks for the same.
The BJP manifesto for Jharkhand included a promise to build a National Tribal University in the state, the provision of 33% reservation to women in government jobs, a government job for each family living below the poverty line, and free education for girls from the nursery to postgraduate level, among others, News on AIR reported.
Hemant Soren was the main campaigner for the Opposition alliance, and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav also campaigned actively in Jharkhand. The Opposition alliance focused its campaign on matters such as tribal land rights, job losses, deaths due to hunger, and inflation.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s manifesto promised Rs 2,000 as kitchen allowance to women, as well as free education for girls from the primary to the PhD level, India Today reported. It also said that 75% of government jobs will be reserved for local residents of Jharkhand.
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren also said in an interview earlier this month that the party will withdraw sedition cases filed against Pathalgadi supporters if elected to power. Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by some villages in Jharkhand to declare their local gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, not the state or central government.
Last month, Scroll.in had reported that the police had filed sedition cases against more than 10,000 people in the district over 2017 and 2018 when Adivasi villages erected stone monoliths with engravings of the Indian Constitution related to tribal autonomy.
Suspected Maoists blew up a bridge in Bishnupur in Gumla district during the first phase of polling. No one was injured in the incident.
In Daltonganj, a minor clash broke out between two groups near Kosiyara polling station. A group broke the window panes of a police vehicle after Congress candidate KN Tripathi allegedly tried to enter the polling booth with arms, said Palamu Deputy Commissioner Shantanu Agrahari, who was also the returning officer.
A man was killed when the police opened fire near a polling booth in Sisai constituency during the second phase of the elections on December 7. However, the police claimed the man did not die of bullet injuries, but due to some sharp object. Earlier though, the police had said that Zilani Ansari was killed and two others were injured after they tried to snatch their arms and pelted stones at security personnel. They claimed Rapid Action Force personnel “had to fire at them in self defence resulting in escalation of the problem”.
Clashes also erupted in a booth when the police allegedly instructed people to vote for the BJP, locals said. The police shot a man in the foot when he dared them to attack him, according to a villager.