Will BJP regain ground in Jharkhand after Marandi's return?

Ranchi (IANS) The first Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi has rejoined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after 14 years, giving high hopes to central leaders of regaining lost ground in the state.

The million dollar question is now - will Marandi's return boost the BJP in the state? The BJP made the rejoining of Marandi a grand event which was attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The party expects to regain lost ground among the tribal community and Marandi's clean image will lure people to its fold.

Marandi is an old BJP worker and was once close to the Sangh Parivar. He made headlines by defeating Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) president Shibu Soren in his bastion Dumka in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls. He became the Minister of State for Environment in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

When Jharkhand was created in 2000, he became the first Chief Minister of the state. Marandi had the image of clean administrator, and soon after taking over, started the fight against the Maoists who retaliated by killing his son in 2007 in Giridih district.

Marandi as Chief Minister worked hard to improve road connectivity and it is said that roads reached every village in the state during his tenure.

He, however, failed to keep together the allies who revolted against him and forced him to resign in March 2003 leading to the elevation of Arjun Munda as the Chief Minister.

Arjun Munda proved his capabilities and returned to power in 2005. Munda was also ousted from the chief ministership as independent legislators, including Madhu Koda, revolted against him in 2006.

Marandi quit the BJP just after the fall of the Arjun Munda government and floated the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P).

Munda was elected to the 2009 Lok Sabha from Jamshedpur and later became the Chief Minister for the third time in 2010. When Amit Shah became the BJP chief in 2014, Munda was sidelined in the party. He lost the 2014 assembly polls and Raghubar Das, a non tribal, was elevated to the post of the Chief Minister.

BJP insiders say that the the party has had a tribal leader in Arjun Munda but he was sidelined as he did not enjoy good relations with Raghubar Das. Amit Shah supported Raghubar Das and kept Munda out of Jharkhand till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Munda was mnade the party candidate Khuti Lok Sabha seat, which was a tough constituency for the BJP, but he managed to win the election by a thin margin of 1,300 votes.

The BJP now has two tribal leaders who were once political foes and did not like each other. It was Munda who took over from Marandi and sidelined him in the party. According to political analysts here, Amit Shah and Raghubar Das have brought back Marandi to again corner Munda, who has a good following among the BJP workers.

The big question currently is - will Marandi be able to take hold of the party and became a chief ministerial candidate in 2024 assembly polls?

The BJP experiment of elevating a non-tribal as Chief Minister boomeranged causing it to lose the maximum number of seats reserved for the tribal community in the 2019 assembly polls.

Going by Marandi's previous party's - JVM-P - record, he failed to make his presence felt in the last assembly polls. Marandi has lost the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The JVM-P managed to win only three seats in the 2019 assembly polls.

Marandi's detractors say that he himself is a lost force in state politics if the last 14 years of his political journey are taken into account.

Will he boost the BJP, which has lost morale after the recent assembly poll defeat. and succeed in making the party's presence felt among tribal communities constituting 27 per cent of the population in the state? His detractors say he has a clean image but is not a good political manager.

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