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Jharkhand assembly elections: BJP may have to rethink strategy for key state polls

The grim assessment was based on feedback about CM Raghubar Das’s overbearing ways and irascibility and temper tantrums, hindering his ability to carry the party along and blunting the goodwill for development measures. ​The loss of one more state is likely to lead the party to question the approach to concede the primacy of CMs in respective jurisdictions.

Last Updated: Dec 24, 2019, 10.51 AM IST
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(This story originally appeared in on Dec 24, 2019)
NEW DELHI: It is not that the BJP leadership was not warned about it. The scale of the Jharkhand defeat, with the party ceding the number one slot for the first time, might have come as a surprise but the leadership knew that the party had its back to the wall.

The grim assessment was based on feedback about CM Raghubar Das’s overbearing ways and irascibility and temper tantrums, hindering his ability to carry the party along and blunting the goodwill for development measures.

The loss of one more state is likely to lead the party to question the approach to concede the primacy of CMs in respective jurisdictions.

After loss, BJP could revisit policy of empowering CMs
BJP has been different from Congress because of the room it allows its state-level leaders: a policy that has helped the growth of a second line of leadership. But the empowerment experiment has also resulted in outsize egos and notions of autonomy. The Jharkhand debacle may prompt the central leadership to have a second look at the policy to bolster CMs.

Das’s unpopularity among the cadres was well known. But the leadership chose to persist with him. This was partly because of lack of options and partly because of the calculation that he would fetch the party the support of backwards. But the leeway meant the outgoing CM persisting with his style and, in the process, alienating a large section of the party.

With BJP-ruled UP, Assam and Uttarakhand due to go to polls before the Lok Sabha elections, insiders were already arguing that the leadership should put in place tougher oversight to restrain the unilateral ways of state leaders.

The voices are likely to grow strong, now that the Jharkhand loss has again underlined that PM Narendra Modi’s personal appeal and national themes are not strong enough a buffer against incumbency. Although Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah threw themselves into the campaign with characteristic vigour, the attempt to retain the state lacked the energy that is associated with the party under them. Party sources identified Shah’s growing preoccupation with the challenging job in the home ministry as a big contributory factor.

He was involved with the campaign but, insiders say, not with the trademark dogged meticulousness. Unlike in previous instances, beginning with his conduct of a successful campaign in UP for the 2014 LS polls, Jharkhand elections marked the first instance where he did not stay overnight in the state: a remarkable break from the pattern where he would spend the night with workers in the district headquarters.

Sources said Shah has been scaling down his engagement also to set the stage for J P Nadda, who is set to take over as party president soon. While the calibrated retreat is logical, it may have cost the party in Jharkhand.

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