'The voters of Jharkhand did not accept Raghubar Das.'
Trumping the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance has emerged as leaders in the 81-seat assembly, with party leader Hemant Soren set to stake claim to form the next government.
"We couldn't reach an understanding with allies for the Vidhan Sabha polls and this did harm the BJP's electoral prospects," Rajya Sabha MP Ram Vichar Netam, the BJP's Jharkhand in-charge, tells Prasanna D Zore>/Rediff.com.
What do you have to say about the BJP's poor performance in Jharkhand?
We accept and welcome the mandate given by the people of Jharkhand with all humility. The Bharatiya Janata Party had not expected such results after the support we received in the state.
What could be the reason for the BJP not reaching the 50 seats you expected in Jharkhand?
The national and state leadership will together discuss the reasons why we could not secure more than 50 seats this time and will try to improve upon the gaps that might come out during the discussions.
Looking at the trends and results that are coming out, it is absolutely clear that somewhere the people were upset (with the BJP). And we could not overcome the anti-incumbency factor that comes with ruling a state for so long.
Was it just anti-incumbency or is it also that the voters of Jharkhand rejected issues like the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah raked up during their campaigns in the state?
You must understand that issues of the state and issues at the Centre are different. The people of Jharkhand and India have benefitted immensely from various central government schemes implemented by our party.
I would say that the BJP has a huge support from the voters of Jharkhand when it comes to the Ram Mandir issue, the CAA and NRC. I could not see any negative sentiment against these issues in Jharkhand.
This might have been an issue in those areas or constituencies of the state where we do not have the BJP's traditional voters, but I must say that the people of Jharkhand have hugely supported these issues raised by the BJP.
Do you look at winning less than 25 seats, as against the 37 the BJP had in the outgoing assembly, as indicative of support from the voters of Jharkhand for these issues?
The issues are different at the national level and state level.
But national BJP leaders did talk extensively about these national issues during their rallies in Jharkhand.
We did raise these issues, but one must also see whose face the state liked and whose face the voters didn't. The people voted on the basis of which leader will remain favourable for the state.
Would you then concede that the BJP's face in Jharkhand, Chief Minister Raghubar Das, failed to impress voters?
I will not discuss whether this was a failure or nor, but I can say based on the trends and results that are emerging that the voters of Jharkhand did not accept him (Raghubar Das).
Did the All Jharkhand Students Union and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party fighting against the BJP, instead of fighting together as allies, dent your party's chances?
The AJSU has been our traditional ally and we did fight as allies on many occasions, but we couldn't reach an understanding with them for the Vidhan Sabha polls this time and this did harm the BJP's electoral prospects.
Isn't the BJP losing state after state because it is ignoring its allies? It happened in Maharashtra, and now in Jharkhand too.
All policy decisions regarding alliances are taken by our national leadership and party high command. We all walk the decisions taken by the organisation and party high command.
Based on this logic, can we then conclude that the BJP's national leadership could not read the pulse of the voters of Jharkhand?
Everybody was reading (the minds of the voters) and everybody knew (what the voters wanted), and given our poll preparations we had not expected this kind of result.
I can assure you that these leaders never tired from all the hard work of fighting an election. Their efforts were sincere. Despite all the efforts, the result did not favour us is a matter of serious concern for all of us.
Can we say the BJP's national leaders could not read the minds of voters?
This will be critiqued at different levels. The reasons behind the results in the state will be assessed. We will address all these issues when we sit together and objectively assess the poll results.
Do you think the rebellion led by your former minister Saryu Rai (who was leading against Chief Minister Ragubar Das when this interview was conducted), also dented the BJP's poll prospects?
We fought the elections based on the policy decisions taken by the organisation at the national level. It (the rebellion by senior leaders) does impact the party's prospects in some seats.
Jab bada ped girta hai toh neeche ki zameen toh hilti hi hai na? (doesn't the earth shake when a big tree falls?)