NEW DELHI: Raghubar Das is the third BJP CM to be anointed in the last couple of months in contravention of the existing conventions of state politics.
Das, 59, who hails from OBC Tali community, would be the first non-tribal Chief Minister of the state, which was carved out of Bihar 14 years ago and had witnessed nine tribal CMs at its helm.
As with Manohar Lal Khattar, a Punjabi Chief Minister in Jat-dominated Haryana, and Devendra Fadnavis, a Brahmin Chief Minister in the Maratha-dominated politics of Maharashtra, in Jharkhand too the BJP has turned the existing caste calculus on its head
The BJP’s audacious attempt to install a Hindu Chief Minister in Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir is currently halted by the fractured mandate in the state. The recently held Assembly polls saw the BJP’s best ever poll performance since the party’s inception 34 years ago. It gave the party the ability to pick candidates of its choice, mostly handpicked by Modi and Shah.
Party leaders claimed that the move may pay the party handsomely in the long-run as the saffron party expands its reach across the country, and even prepares a second rung of leaders.
Till now, the BJP in its online membership drive had enrolled over 2.20 crore members.
There are two reasons that went in Das’s favour in Jharkhand. He was picked by Shah as a member of his team of national office-bearers, thus showing the BJP chief’s trust in him. Secondly, the poll debacle of former Chief Minister Arjun Munda, a tribal who could have been a ‘natural’ choice for the BJP CM post, if he had won.
Ironically, almost all the former CMs and even Deputy CM, all tribals, lost the elections. Apart from Munda, former CMs Babulal Marandi (Jharkhand Vikas Morcha), Madhu Koda, Deputy CM Sudesh Mahto (AJSU) lost miserably. Even outgoing CM Hemant Soren (JMM) lost from one of the two seats he had contested.
A former Deputy CM, Das, an employee with Tata Steels but on long leave, has been elected MLA five times. Though he does not come with a Sangh background, like Khattar and Fadnavis, his elevation will send a strong signal to the Hindu population of the state. Both Khattar and Fadnavis were also considered close to Modi.
Despite the BJP winning 37 seats (while its ally All Jharkhand Students Union won five), the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha,which headed the previous government, a tribal party improved its performance over last elections to corner 19 seats, garnering 20.4 per cent vote after the BJP’s 31.3 per cent.
The BJP leaders are quick to point out that it’s not a “gameplan” where the dominant caste of the state was being ignored to hoist leaders of other caste, but the “politics of development and governance.”
“Too much should not be read between the lines. There is no such gameplan (as leaders of non-dominant castes were chosen as CMs). People are interested in issues of development and governance and not in the identity. The people do not mind leader of other caste as head of the government, if he delivers,” a senior national party leader said.
Ahead of the Jharkhand elections, BJP leaders had pointed out that it was important to have a tribal Chief Minister in one state, because tribals constitute a significant community even in the neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.