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Some Highlights

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A. Jharkhand Elections:

  • The results for the Jharkhand assembly elections are out. While the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance won 47 seats, the BJP (contesting alone) won 25 seats, out of 81 assembly seats. BJP’s former ally (contesting alone), All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), won 2 seats.
  • The seat share and vote share of main parties is as follows:
    Seat Share Vote Share
    2014 2019 2014 2019
    BJP 37 25 31.2% 33.4%
    Jharkhand Mukti Morcha(JMM) 19 30 20.4% 18.7%
    Congress 6 16 10.4% 13.8%
    AJSU 5 2 3.6% 8%
    Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P) 2 3 9.9% 5.4%
  • Congress has increased the number of seats as well as its vote share. JMM has substantially increased its seat share, but its vote share has declined. BJP has seen a decrease in seat share, but its vote share has gone up by 2.2%. Even in the current elections, BJP is the party with the largest vote share at 33.4%, with the second largest JMM coming a distant second at 18.7%.
  • Unlike in the 2019 elections where it contested alone, in 2014, BJP had an alliance with AJSU. In 2014 BJP had contested 72 seats and won 37 seats, while AJSU had contested 8 seats and won 5. BJP’s contested vote-share in 2014 was 35.7%.
  • In terms of SC/ST votes, the BJP lost vote share in areas where SC/ST population was lower:
    Voting patterns in SC/ST groups:
    SC/ST Population BJP 2019 Change from 2014 JMM+ 2019 Change from 2014
    < 30% 33.5% -2.3 32.5% +0.1
    30% to 60% 31.6% +1.5 41.1% +1.6
    > 60% 31.1% +0.4 33.7% -0.2
    Source: Palshikar, Shastri, & Kumar (2019)

    While the JMM has a larger vote share in greater SC/ST areas, the BJP lost vote share in areas with less SC/ST population and gained in areas with higher SC/ST population.

  • In terms of religion, the Hindu vote was divided, while Muslims and Christians voted heavily for the Opposition.
    Religion-wise vote share (%) (approximate):
    Religion JMM+ BJP AJSU JVM Others
    Hindu 31 39 9 6 16
    Muslim 53 14 5 6 22
    Christian 41 23 7 4 25
    Others 40 28 9 4 19
    Source: Palshikar, Shastri, & Kumar (2019)
  • The main question in these elections is how did the BJP manage to lose, so soon after sweeping the Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand. The BJP had swept the polls in Lok Sabha constituencies of Chatra, Dhanbad, Dumka, Godda, Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur, Khunti, Kodarma, Lohardaga, Palamau and Ranchi in the general elections of 2019 i.e. 11 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats. Out of these 14 seats, in the current assembly elections, the BJP lost Chatra, Dumka, Jamshedpur, and, Lohardaga.
  • The former Chief Minister, Raghubar Das, himself lost in Jamshedpur East to former BJP rebel Saryu Roy. The BJP also lost in Jamshedpur West – the seat from which, due to internal politics, it had not allowed Saryu Roy to contest as he traditionally used to, forcing him to contest as an Independent against the CM himself from Jamshedpur East.
  • There are a combination of factors contributing to the loss:

Internal Politics: As the case of Jamshedpur East and West shows, internal politics played a negative role. The alienation of an erstwhile RSS man and BJP member, Saryu Roy, due to petty politics was negative. Roy had a good following among party workers and had an honest image.

This happened in many cases, where the BJP state unit dropped several sitting MLAs – 13 out of 37 sitting MLAs were dropped – and alienated many loyalists who then worked against the Raghubar Das-led BJP. Further, giving tickets to new entrants with dubious or corrupt records created even more dissatisfaction with the CM.

Shunning Alliance: The decision to shun an alliance with AJSU also proved costly. The BJP did not perform well among the OBCs this time, and AJSU has a good base among OBC communities like Mahtos which could have made a difference for the BJP (Dayal, 2019). Also, had BJP allied with AJSU it could have made a difference in at least 10 seats where their combined vote-share would have been more than that of the winning opposition candidate (Hebbar, 2019).

Local Factors: Local factors played a role in this election. BJP did not get the votes of lower middle classes due to issues like unemployment. This is reflected in the loss of BJP’s vote share among OBCs and upper caste Hindus. The Opposition – which had been systematically campaigning and reaching out to people since 2018, could mobilize them around local issues, even as BJP relied solely on Modi and Shah to do last minute campaigning around national issues like Article 370 and triple talaq.

While the Raghubar Das government – the only one to complete a full five-year term in the state – had performed well over the last 5 years, these initiatives were hardly highlighted during the campaigning.

National issues do resonate deeply with people and that is why BJP has been able to perform reasonably well despite contesting all alone. But the effectivity and sincerity of these national milestones in the collective psyche of the people is diluted if the state unit is unable to bring the message across or emerges as unpopular.

Tribal Factor: While the BJP may have performed well among SCs, it antagonized the Christian STs, who played a major role in many seats.

Community-wise change in vote-share in 2019 compared to 2014 (%):

Caste/Community                JMM-Congress          BJP     

    Upper caste                                       -2                     -8

Yadav                                                  +11                 -14

Kurmi                                                  -11                  -4

Other OBC                                          +2                    -6

Jatav                                                   +1                    -2

Other SC                                             -1                     +14

Oraon (Hindu and Christian)           +8                    -21

Santhal (Hindu and Christian)         +2                    +13

Munda (Hindu and Christian)         -7                     +22

Other ST                                             -11                  -13

Source: Palshikar, Shastri, & Kumar (2019)

From the above survey, it is clear that BJP has mainly lost out on OBCs, upper castes and Yadavs. It has gained heavily among non-Jatav Dalits, and tribal communities like Santhals and Mundas. Therefore, the analysis that tribals were not happy with the BJP is not completely true.

A popular narrative in post-election analysis is that the attempt to change the land acquisition policy by amending Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act – which made sale of tribal land to non-tribals easier – may have polarized the tribals against the BJP. Also, the entire Pathalgadi armed movement – along Naxalite lines, demanding self-governance and acting against the state – and government crackdown 2-3 years back was also tribal-focused. But these attempts at land reforms were made at least 2.5-3 years ago, as was the crackdown against separatists. And BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections, especially in areas like Khunti were the Pathalgadi crackdown actually occurred.

Indeed, if anything, the Pathalgadi movement strengthened BJP further. About 2.5-3 years ago, the BJP had nearly successfully attempted to divide the tribals along religious lines to expose how Christian missionaries were attempting to convert Hindu tribals. BJP had then invoked tribal heroes like Birsa Munda and others who had fought for Hindu tribals.

The government had also brought in a stringent anti-conversion law viz. Religious Freedom Act in 2017, to curb missionary conversions, which Hemant Soren has now promised to review.

The BJP had become a threat to Christian missionaries and took stringent actions against them in cases like selling of babies. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity wanted the CM removed as they realized that the BJP was on track to completely kill their conversion agenda and had also gained lot of popularity among the Hindu tribal people.

If the results during the current elections are seen carefully, it is obvious that main sections of Hindu tribals voted heavily for the BJP. Indeed, the BJP increased its vote share considerably among Munda and Santhal tribals, while losing among Oraon and other tribals – and Hindu-Christian polarization is very much visible. Among the Oraon, who follow nature worship or Sarna, there were demands for a separate religious code – promised by all parties – but also considerable conflict among Hindus and Christians over how to interpret religious symbols. Despite the fact that their practices derive from Sanatan Dharma, the demands for separate religious code dilutes Hindu consolidation.

While in 2014, BJP – albeit with slim margins and in an alliance – won 13 out of 28 reserved tribal seats and in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it won 3 out 5 such seats, in 2019 assembly elections, JMM+ won in more than 20 such seats (Dutta, 2019). However, in at least 16 tribal seats, Christian tribals played a game-changer, and punished the BJP for issues like the anti-conversion law (PNS, 2019).

Takeaway from Jharkhand:

It is, therefore, clear that these elections were not about tribals versus BJP, but more about Hindu tribals versus Christian tribals. The BJP lost Jharkhand not because of tribal vote loss, but because of vote loss among OBCs and upper castes due to variety of local factors like unemployment, dissatisfaction with CM, complacency, internal politics and others. The party did retain and add onto its Hindu tribal and SC vote-banks.

B. UK Elections:

  • The UK elections results were a major milestone in British politics, as well as an encouragement to a conservative, anti-immigrant outlook the world over.
  • Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won 365 seats in the election, well past the majority mark of 326 seats out of 650 seats. The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, won 203 seats, while the Scottish National Party (SNP), led by Nicola Sturgeon, won 48 seats. The Liberal Democrats stagnated at 11 seats.
  • The Conservatives gained 47 seats from their 2017 tally, while the Labour lost 59 seats from 2017. SNP gained 13 seats.
  • The vote share of Conservatives was 43.6%, just an increase of about 1% over their 42.3% vote share of 2017. The Labour, on the other hand, lost almost 8% vote share, getting a vote share of 32.2%, compared to their 2017 vote share of 40%.
  • There were at least 24 constituencies which the Conservatives won from the Labour strongholds – seats which had been held by the Labour party historically for decades.
  • This was Labour Party’s worst performance since 1935. The party ended up even losing its working-class heartlands in northern and central England to the Tories.
  • The main reason was that this election was fought on the plank of Brexit, with Johnson appealing to people with the simple message of ‘Get Brexit done’, even as Labour was caught in a bind about what to do. The Labour could never formulate their position clearly, appearing to be against Johnson’s formulation of Brexit but without any clear plan of their own. The Labour Party indicated that they support Brexit after yet another national referendum, thereby complicating the picture compared to Johnson’s clear planning.
  • As a result, the Labour lost heavily in its strongholds among working class people. The working-class people had overwhelmingly voted in favour of Brexit or leaving the European Union. These constituted typically low-skilled white working-class populace, who felt that being a part of EU has resulted in flooding of immigrants from places in eastern Europe who threatened their jobs.
  • The vote in favour of SNP may mean the revival of pro-Independence sentiment in Scotland. While in a referendum in 2014, Scotland had narrowly voted against Independence from Great Britain, the Scottish are largely in favour of remaining with the EU. Therefore, once the Brexit process is facilitated, SNP will get further boost in reviving the pro-Independence sentiment.
  • This time, significantly, the Indian vote was also polarized and consciously directed against the Labour party, due to Corbyn’s anti-India and pro-Pakistan stand on issues like Kashmir. Various Indian organizations worked to identify at least 80 seats plus 30 marginals where the Indian vote could be influenced. While there is no data on how Indians swung the vote in all these seats, yet substantial presence of more Indian voters in certain seats did make a difference from 2017 results (TNN, 2019).
  • That Indian polarization was going strong could be gleaned from the fact that prior to the elections, British Labour representatives complained that overseas wings of BJP were trying to meddle in the UK elections.

C. Impeachment drama in the US:

  • This month saw US President, Donald Trump, being finally impeached in the House of Representatives, which is dominated by the Democrats.
  • Two articles of impeachment were passed against him:

Abuse of Authority: This relates to Trump’s alleged threat to the Ukrainian President that he would withhold military aid of about 400 million USD and a White House visit to the latter, unless Ukraine investigates commercial interests of Joe Biden’s (a Democratic leader and Vice-President under Obama) son, Hunter, in Ukraine, especially during the time when Biden was the Vice President. This, Democrats, allege places personal interests above national security concerns.

For this motion, the House voted with 230 in favour and 197 against it.

>  Obstruction of Congress: This relates to Trump refusing to cooperate with the House of Representatives in its investigations into the Ukraine issue, with Trump also asking other White House officials not to cooperate.

For this motion, the House voted with 229 in favour and 198 against it.

  • The actual charges are controversial and the Trump camp refuses to believe that getting Biden investigated was done for personal interest – the key point here is not only that Trump had asked Ukrainian President to investigate Biden, but also that there was likely something genuinely amiss in Biden family’s commercial interests in Ukraine that warranted such an investigation. The Republican camp alleges that this investigation was needed in national interest. Also, while Trump may have threatened to withhold military aid, it was eventually released.
  • The overall picture is, therefore, murky. That is why Trump’s narrative that this was a witch-hunt may have struck chord with the popular opinion, since the Democrats had been unsuccessfully trying to impeach him since 2017 through the Mueller Report.
  • Also, this impeachment drama has been one of a kind. While Trump may have been only the third President in US history to be impeached, this was one instance where there was unprecedented polarization. Trump will likely go down as the only President in US politics to win his party’s wholesale support for re-election nomination even after this impeachment.
  • On the one hand, almost all the Democrats in the House – except the two who represented constituencies which had been swept by Trump in 2016 elections and other than Tulsi Gabbard who neither voted for nor against the Articles – voted in favour of impeachment.
  • On the other hand, all Republicans voted against it. The vote was not at all bipartisan. Therefore, for the first time, this level of polarization and bitterness is being seen in US politics, dividing the political space right through the middle along clear party lines.
  • This divide and the lack of support of any Republican for the impeachment motion further dents the effort of Democrats, making it look as if this is just being done by Democrats for political purposes.
  • This impression is further reinforced since after the House impeachment, the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, calculatedly refused to send the Articles of impeachment to the Senate in order to complete the impeachment process. Ultimately, Senate would assume the role of a jury to vote on the Articles of impeachment, where the impeachment motion would need to pass through a 2/3rdmajority to be successful. However, the Senate is Republican dominated. The Democrats would need at least 20 Republicans to defect to their side for the impeachment to succeed – which they know is not going to happen.
  • Trump ideally wanted the impeachment process to be completed fast, so that after the acquittal by the Senate, he could go to the voters to ridicule the failed impeachment bid by the Democrats as a political witch-hunt. But Democrats’ refusal to send the impeachment motion to Senate has left the matter hanging.
  • However, even this scenario seems to be working out in Trump’s favour. It does not prevent him from discharging his usual Presidential powers and the message is still being conveyed to the voters that this impeachment business was nothing but a political gimmick, and not sincere. The Democrats were keeping it hanging as they knew it would be defeated in Senate.
  • When all this is seen along with the larger developments in US politics that Democrats are themselves losing the narrative over their core ideology – with increasing accusations of anti-Semitism etc. against them due to controversial new Representatives – the sympathy for Trump goes up.
  • The Democratic Party ideology has always been centrist and liberal, but thanks to Bernie Sanders and fringe newcomers, there has been a palpable left-wing shift – which many white voters and conservative elite sections of non-whites like Indian-Americans – do not empathize with. Today, the Democrats’ best bet against Trump are leaders with fringe ideology like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – the latter’s popularity being purely a put-on aura created through sympathetic efforts by the liberal anti-Trump mainstream media through debates etc.
  • All of this explains why the public support for Trump continues to be strong, hovering at around 50%. Interestingly, the public opinion polls show that the public support for Trump has gone up after the impeachment, showing that far from worsening his political prospects, the impeachment bid may have actually strengthened them – all this, in spite of a mainstream media that hates Trump.

Bibliography

Dayal, H. (2019, December 26). Indifferent State leadership caused BJP’s Jharkhand loss. The Hindu.

Dutta, P. K. (2019, December 23). India Today. Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/why-bjp-lost-jharkhand-assembly-election-1630820-2019-12-23

Hebbar, N. (2019, December 24). The Hindu.

Palshikar, S., Shastri, S., & Kumar, S. (2019, December 26).

PNS. (2019, December 7). Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/state-editions/—tribal-christians-to-play-key-role-in-many-constituencies—.html

TNN. (2019, December 16). Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/british-indians-claim-their-campaigning-influenced-70-seats-in-uk-election/articleshow/72734158.cms

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