In the elections to Jharkhand state assembly, BJP has been decisively defeated. It secured 25 seats while its main challenger, an alliance of JMM-Congress & RJD has secured 47 seats in an assembly of 81. Even the incumbent Chief Minister has been defeated.
These elections were held during the period which saw mass protests against CAA-NRC in the different parts of the country. In fact some of the brutal attacks on the protesters were made during the course of this campaign. And RSS-BJP leaders tried their utmost to deepen communal polarization and paint these protests as anti-Hindu and anti-national, even invoked the name of Pakistan whose games the protesters and opposition parties are allegedly playing. RSS-BJP leaders promised that Ram Mandir in Ayodhya would come up in four months, patted their backs on virtual abrogation of Article 370 and annulment of Article 35A in relation to Kashmir. In brief, they fought these elections in Jharkhand on communal jingoist platform obviously to cover up failures of their Central and State Govts. and to divert the attention of the people from their growing hardships and increasing attacks on their means of livelihood including employment opportunities.
People’s anger has been building up on many issues but the most potent factor in Jharkhand has been the mounting anger among tribals. State of Jharkhand had been carved out of the erstwhile state (united) of Bihar in response to a long running struggle of Jharkhandis mainly tribals for the separate state. But the formation of separate state has not fulfilled the expectations of the tribal people as the ruling class parties which have ruled the state since its formation, mostly RSS-BJP, have been serving the interests of corporate and exploiting sections at the cost of tribals who have been at the receiving end of their policies. Even when the Govt. is headed by tribals except during past five years when RSS-BJP chose a non-tribal to be the Chief Minister, the Govts. have not fulfilled the expectations of tribals and other exploited sections of Jharkhand. Tribals are mostly peasants and their rights over land and forest produce are under threat while their rights to exercise self-rule and protect their culture are not respected in practice. Tribals provide most of casual and now contract labour in the state and there is growing attack on the wages and rights of these workers.
RSS-BJP which formed the Govt. in the state in alliance with AJSU after 2014 elections went far in the direction of openly attacking the tribal people of the state. They amended longstanding Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPTA) to allow commercial use of tribal land to hand over tribal land to corporate. Moreover tribals were subjected to severe repression and their struggles for land and means of livelihood were suppressed with brute force. When the tribals rose to defend their land and their traditional rights in the form of Pathalgarhi movement they were fired upon, arrested and severe police repression let loose against them while they were only demanding and defending what are their rights under PESA. Nearly ten thousand tribals were included in the FIRs filed in the course of Pathalgarhi movement. In fact though there are several laws to safeguard some rights of tribals, these are seldom implemented, even when implemented it is not done properly. Same fate has fallen to Forest Rights Act 2006 whose implementation is quite tardy. A large number of claims are still pending while they are uprooted from their traditional habitat.
RSS-BJP Govt. also sought to divide the tribals by making anti-conversion law which was targeted against Christian tribals. This divisive step of the RSS-BJP further convinced tribals of the sinister designs of the Govt. against them.
Tribals of Jharkhand have been one of the main victims of the ‘development’ policies followed by the successive govts. They were among the worst sufferers of forcible displacement when big PSUs were built in the region and they were displaced without any proper recompense. Their old world was taken away without giving any new in return. Now they are being subjected to another run of displacement for the corporate houses for the exploitation of this mineral rich region.
Tribal anger was much in evidence in these elections. Of the 28 seats reserved for STs, BJP could secure only 2 while the opposition alliance swept 25 of these. Of the twelve seats loss suffered by the BJP as compared to last elections, nine seats were lost in these areas. BJP could win only where tribal leaders were with BJP and alternative social leadership was not there with other ruling class parties. Anger was so palpable even before the elections that AJSU parted company with RSS-BJP though they had been ally of RSS-BJP in running the Govt.
People of Jharkhand have rejected the communal, sectarian and chauvinist platform of RSS-BJP. They have rejected the attempts of RSS-BJP to divert their attention from the growing problems like increasing destitution and unemployment.
Jharkhand has a large working class employed in heavy industries and small industries catering to these large enterprises. Large enterprises are Central Govt. enterprises and private sector enterprises. Jharkhand has vast mineral resources and huge deposits of coal, uranium, copper and other minerals. Central Govt. has opened coal mines to 100% FDI and has systematically suppressed the trade union movement in public sector enterprises while police has intervened in favour of capitalists in the private sector industries. There is growing attack on the workers’ organizations.
However, the ruling class parties which have come to power have ruled earlier as well and do not represent any alternative policies. These too are representatives of exploiters and oppressors of the tribals and other oppressed sections. Tribals and oppressed sections will have to build their struggles for their rights, their land and means of livelihood. These struggles alone can advance them towards fulfillment of their basic rights.
December 24, 2019