Former Chief Minister of Chhatfisgarh Ajit Jogi. Photo: PTI
This time around, as Chhattisgarh
Chief Minister Raman Singh
relies on his 15-year-old government’s efficient delivery of social welfare schemes
to get re-elected, the story of the 2018 assembly elections in the state could well be how the Congress
manages to overhaul the slim gap in its vote share by striking pre-poll alliances, or whether a former Congressman scuppers the party’s chances.
In 2013, the vagaries of the first-past-the-post system had meant the BJP
with 41.18 per cent vote share won 49 seats in the 90-member assembly, while the Congress
with 40.43 per cent vote share won 39 seats.
In 2013, the Bahujan Samaj Party
(BSP) secured 4.27 per cent of the votes and won a solitary seat. The BSP’s vote share in eight seats was much more than the gap between that of Congress
candidates and those of the BJP.
The Communist Party of India
was a respectable number three in terms of vote share in Chitrakoot, Dantewara, Bijapur and Konta. The Gondwana Ganatantra Party
(GGP), which had a vote share of 1.6 per cent in 2013, and Nationalist Congress
Party also played a role in the Congress
losing close contests in the three seats of Bharatpur-Sonhat, Mahendragarh and Baikunthpur.
party’s alliances with the BSP
would also depend on whether it succeeds in having alliances with these two parties in Madhya Pradesh as well.
The crucial difference between 2013 and now, however, is the presence of former Congress
leader and former Chhattisgarh
chief minister Ajit Jogi
and his son Amit, who have launched their own party, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh.
Punia has ruled out either an alliance or a seat adjustment with Jogi, and the Congress
has taken to calling the party the BJP’s “B team”.
But Jogi and his son command respect in their Satnami Scheduled Caste
community. The Dalits
comprise 12 per cent of the state’s population. Of these, the Satnamis are nearly two-thirds. The Jogis could damage the Congress
party’s chances in at least a dozen seats, but their absence from the Congress
could also help it win over the middle classes. Interestingly, Jogi met BSP
last month, which left the Congress
a tad nervous. It has since reached out to the BSP
chief, and such leaders as the Nationalist Congress
Party chief Sharad Pawar
have also met Mayawati
As for Chief Minister Raman Singh’s campaign, he has taken to reach out to the people about the efficient delivery of social welfare schemes, particularly the state’s public distribution system. The Raman Singh
government counts improvements in health and education sectors as its successes.
According to Singh, the state’s health scheme has benefited as many as 5.5 million people. He will launch the second phase of the health scheme on Independence Day, and is hopeful that the people would not ignore efforts at generating employment through the NMDC’s 3-million-tonne Nagarmar Steel Plant
in Bastar, which will go into production by the end of the year.
For the present, it is safe to surmise that an interesting electoral battle awaits us in Chhattisgarh
with Singh continuing to be the frontrunner to win it.