With the state assembly elections just a month away, a great game of anti-incumbency is going on in Chhattisgarh. Voting for the first phase of elections on 18 seats of South Chhattisgarh region will be held on 12th November. Out of these 18 seats, 12 seats fall in the Bastar region. The Congress party had won eight seats in the last assembly elections, while the ruling BJP managed to grab just four seats. Ahead of the upcoming Chhattisgarh state assembly elections, both parties are claiming, that it is the other one, that is facing anti-incumbency challenge in the region.
According to the Congress, BJP under the leadership of CM Raman Singh is ruling the state for last 15 years and there is a growing anti-incumbency sentiment against the ruling party of Chhattisgarh. On the other hand, its rival BJP is asserts that although there is a BJP government in the state, but it is the Congress which has more MLAs to defend their seats in Bastar region.
BJP maintains that the anti-incumbency is against the individual and not the government and hence it has not changed the candidates in the region. It opines that its losing candidates will have a sympathy factor working in their favour, which will provide them an edge over the Congress and then the ball would be in Congress’ court. It’s the candidates of the Congress who won, that will need to lock horns with the anti-incumbency monster. The BJP is counting on this ‘anti-incumbency’ against the individuals to sweep the region like it did in 2008 when the BJP had won 11 out of 12 seats in the region.
The Congress has shown confidence on seven of its MLAs. Although it doesn’t look like their faith will pay off, especially in the absence of popular tribal face and former Chhattisgarh Congress CM- Ajit Jogi- and their failure to stitch up an alliance with the BSP. The BSP has declared that it is going to contest in the upcoming Chhattisgarh state assembly elections in coalition with Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC-J). The BSP supremo also made it very clear that if the government of the BSP- JCC came to power then Ajit Jogi will be the Chief Ministerial candidate. In Chhattisgarh, BSP will contest on 35 seats and JCC will fight on the remaining 55 seats. In fact, former Congress leader and now the CM candidate of BSP-JCC alliance- Ajit Jogi is trying to turn the assembly elections into a triangular contest and any such contest is most likely to benefit the BJP, as it will chop the votes of the Congress. In Chhattisgarh, shift of even 1% of the votes is enough to alter the equations drastically. In the last state assembly elections, both parties- Congress and BJP had a vote difference of less than 1 percent.
The state has nearly 50% Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes population among whom Ajit Jogi enjoys significant influence. In the last assembly elections, the Congress won over the tribals in South Chhattisgarh even as it failed to perform well in urban areas. Of the 29 scheduled tribe (ST) reserved seats, the Congress secured victory on 18 seats, and the BJP managed register victory over 11 seats. However, this time their leading Tribal face- Ajit Jogi- is not with them, so the party is most likely to register a steep decline among Tribal voters of the state. He also enjoys good following among Dalits, Muslims and Christians; and the exit of such stalwart leader would definitely ruin the electoral arithmetic for Congress.
Historically the elections in Chhattisgarh have been closely fought and Ajit Jogi-Mayawati alliance will lead to division of the anti-BJP votes or anti-incumbency votes which will ultimately end up benefiting BJP.
Considering the fact that Ajit Jogi is a former Congressman and he still can command loyalty from the cadre leading to a division, hurting the electoral and political prospect of the party in the state. Two current Congress MLAs, Siyaram Kaushik from Bilha and RK Rai from Gunderdehi constituencies, are now on Jogi’s side. CPI has also joined the JCC-BSP alliance and would contest on two seats-Konta and Dantewada. The JCC-BSP-CPI alliance would have a significant influence on around 15 seats and the Congress party would be the biggest victim of this trio.
The grand old party is receiving one setback after another, and the way things are going it seems that the dream of Congress to snatch Chhattisgarh from BJP is only going to remain a chimera. Just a few days ago, its senior leader and state executive president- Ram Dayal Uike- joined the BJP. The BJP President inducted Ram Dayal Uike into the BJP in the presence of Chief Minister Raman Singh, in Bilaspur.
The state unit of Congress is already on the back foot. Its party Chief Bhupesh Baghel was surrounded by controversy. He was caught in a sex CD controversy and was thrown behind the bars. He is currently out on bail. Just like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh is also plagued by factionalism. In Chattisgarh, there are three claimants of CM post- Bhupesh Baghel (Pradesh Congress Committee chief), T.S. Singh Deo (Leader of Opposition) and Charan Das Mahant (former Union Minister and MP from Korba). Apart from these three, according to Congress party leaders, a fourth person- Tamradhwaj Sahu, MP from Durg and president of All India Congress Committee’s OBC wing- is likely to emerge as the strongest candidate for the post of CM.
Having said that, it is very clear that it is the Congress which is facing anti-incumbency and factionalism in the state and the chances of a humiliating defeat are very high. On the other hand, its rival-the BJP is moving strongly in the right direction of conquering the state, fourth time in a row. The state BJP president Dharamlal Kaushik said that the Saffron Party is working on the mission to win 65 of the 90 assembly seats this time and looks like the BJP will definitely achieve the said goal.