The party is witnessing a gradual shift in leadership as Babulal Marandi is emerging as the face.
New Delhi: The Jharkhand unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been witnessing a gradual shift in leadership with the tribal community getting prominence as Babulal Marandi is emerging as the face of the party in recent times. Observers and party insiders believe that by projecting a tribal as its face, the saffron party is trying to raise tribal related issues through him and corner the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led UPA government in the mineral rich state. It also effectively means that the old guard like Raghubar Das and Laxman Gilua who were at the helm when the saffron party was in power between 2014-19, have been sidelined in the party’s scheme of things for Jharkhand.
One senior BJP leader who is also the state Vice-President said, “There is no doubt that Babulal Marandi is our face in the legislative Assembly and a strong contender for the CM’s post. When he rejoined the party before the Covid pandemic, Amit Shah himself came to Ranchi to induct him in a massive rally. After the loss in the 2019 State Assembly polls in which our sitting CM has also lost to a BJP rebel, the party wanted to do major changes in the state. But after a few months, Covid pandemic came and plans came to a standstill. If you observe closely, we are trying to make a balance in the state. The tribals are the major chunk of population, hence Marandi is given importance. Arjun Munda, another tribal, has been made minister of Tribal affairs in the Modi government. We had appointed Deepak Prakash, an upper caste, non-tribal as the state unit president to woo the upper caste population too. Interestingly, Prakash was a close aide of Babulal Marandi as when the former CM left the BJP, in 2006 Deepal Prakash also went along with him. Hence he is Marandi’s man. In a state like Jharkhand where tribals are in large numbers, the realization in the party is that tribal face is must.”
In the 2019 Jharkhand Assembly elections, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led United Progressive Alliance won 47 seats in which JMM got 30 seats, while the Indian National Congress (INC) won 16 seats, the opposition BJP won 25 seats. The Jharkhand legislative assembly had 81 Assembly segments. Jharkhand has been the BJP’s bastion since the early 1990s and stepping stone as far as eastern India is concerned even when the region was part of the united Bihar province. The BJP made its first inroads in eastern India in this region (then South Bihar during 1990s) by winning 22 seats out of the 81 Assembly segments of present Jharkhand assembly in the 1990 Bihar Assembly polls. The Jharkhand region helped the saffron party to increase its footprints in entire eastern India in the years to come which included politically important states like Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. These states sent 110 seats in the Lok Sabha and the BJP had won more than 60 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from the region.
Political analysts and observers also feel that tribals are the BJP’s major focus point in the state after the 2019 Assembly election debacle. Indira Pandey, a political observer and lecturer under Ranchi University, said: “The BJP did an experiment in Jharkhand by appointing Raghubar Das, a non-tribal leader, at the helm of affairs which harmed it big time in the 2014-19 period. The opposition JMM tactically used it and projected that the BJP is anti-tribal. The party had now realized that in a state having 55% tribals, you need to project a tribal face. It is possible that Babulal Marandi might become the party’s face in 2024.”