It might be too early to go into the exact reasons behind the defeat of Raghubar Das, the five-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Jamshedpur (East) who lost by a margin of over 10,000 votes to his former colleague Saryu Roy, who contested as an independent.
It is also too early to speculate the impact that the protests over the Citizenship Amendment Law had on the party’s prospects. The last two phases of the five-phase Jharkhand election were held under the cloud of massive nationwide protests which have refused to die down till date.
But what appears to be emerging for sure is that not projecting a tribal face as its CM candidate cost the saffron party dear. What added to Das' woes was the 'Pathalgadi movement,' a tribal initiative aspiring for another tribal state within Jharkhand. Das' assurances on looking into the underlying reasons behind the movement clearly failed to reach the masses, it can be said now. As BJP's spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao said late in the evening, local issues played a major part in the overall defeat of the party, so did not having an alliance against a united opposition.
The popularity of the Prime Minister might have seen the BJP through at the time of state elections in 2014, when it fought in alliance with regional outfit All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU). Back then, Das, one of the founding members of the BJP, was rewarded for his loyalty and made the CM. The BJP banked on him this time around as well, thinking that he had earned enough goodwill in five years to break the jinx of state’s one-term chief minister. Notably, the mineral-rich state with 27 per cent tribal population hasn’t had a chief minister in power for more than one term. Before Das, neither it had had a non-tribal person leading the state.
Das’ political journey
Raghubar Das contested elections for the first time in 1995 from Jamshedpur (East), then part of undivided Bihar. Das, who has a degree in law, worked at Tata Steel before taking a full-time role as a politician. He, however, had been associated with the cohort of Sangh ideologues since the Emergency days, when he was jailed during the Jayprakash Narayan-led resistance movement. In 1980, he was one a core members of the party’s founding group, which comprised the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
He was made the state unit chief of the party in 2004, and under his and former CM Arjun Munda's leadership in 2005 assembly elections, the party won 30 seats.
Though a big difference between then and now is that the party had projected Munda as its CM face back then. Das had served as a minister in the cabinet of Munda. In the next election in 2009, he served as the deputy chief minister when the party formed government in alliance with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), with patriarch Shibu Soren as the CM.
With Munda (now a Union cabinet minister) away from the scheme of things in the state and Soren JMM's switching allegiance to Congress, on top of Jharkhand's political track record of throwing out incumbent government after single term, the road for Das was always going to be tough. However, few would have expected him to lose from his stronghold of Jamshedpur (East).