There is excitement among BJP workers over Marandi’s move to re-join the BJP.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to win the trust of the tribal community in Jharkhand as a grand welcome awaits former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi back into the party.
The BJP suffered a humiliating defeat in the Assembly elections two months ago, with Chief Minister Raghubar Das himself losing his Jamshedpur East seat. A primary reason for the defeat was said to be BJP’s alienation from the tribal community and Raghubar Das’ unpopular image because of his poor style of functioning.
The stage is set for the “ghar wapsi” of Marandi on 17 February in Ranchi in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and national party president J.P. Nadda. Marandi, the first CM of Jharkhand, had left the BJP in 2006 and floated his own party–Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Parajatantrik)–following differences with the central BJP leadership at that time. There is considerable excitement among the BJP workers over Marandi’s decision to re-join the BJP.
Suman Srivastava, a political observer based in Ranchi, said: “It is going to be a win-win situation for both BJP and Marandi. While BJP will have a local, credible tribal face in the state, Marandi, who could not do well after leaving BJP, will gain political prominence. The BJP cadre, which has been feeling demoralised following the crushing defeat in the Assembly elections, will get rejuvenated.”
The JVM (P) had won three seats in the Assembly polls, including Dhanwar, from where Marandi himself won. On 17 February, JVM (P) will formally merge with the BJP. The other two JVM (P) leaders–Pradeep Yadav and Bandhu Tirkey–however, have decided to stay away from the merger.
According to Srivastava, BJP will benefit in Jharkhand as Marandi has good hold among the tribals, including in the Santhal Paragana region. “It will be 1+1 situation for the BJP. After Marandi coming back to BJP fold, the BJP will have two strong tribal faces—Arjun Munda at the national level and Babulal Marandi at the state level. Munda is already a Cabinet Minister in the Narendra Modi government at the Centre holding the portfolio of Tribal Affairs ministry.
The BJP is worried over the growing alienation of tribals from the party. Out of 25 seats which the party won in the recent Assembly elections, only two are from the reserved Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. Also, in the last five years, under Raghubar Das as Chief Minister, there were complaints that the state leadership also got cut off from the workers and people. “Since Marandi is quite accessible and keeps on travelling in remote areas, it is hoped that the party’s connect with the masses may get restored after Marandi’s entry,” he said.
The BJP has always been trying to bring Marandi back, but this could not materialise. The party in fact tried to bring him into the BJP before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and also in 2019. Senior RSS leader Suresh Soni met him personally, requesting him to join the BJP in 2014. However, Marandi refused. A similar attempt was made before the Assembly elections the same year, but Marandi put a pre-condition that he be declared as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, which the party leadership refused.
Soon after Assembly elections in 2014, there were attempts to make him agree to merging the JVM (P) with the BJP. However, it could not materialise because of “certain elements” (Pradeep Yadav group) in JVM, who were out to “block’ the move. After that, there was no move to negotiate with him. The JVM won eight seats in the Assembly elections, but six of them shifted to BJP.