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Redrawing the fault lines

Redrawing the fault lines
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The neck and neck poll battle which will keep everyone anxiously on the edge of their seats is going to be fought in Chhattisgarh. The main contenders – BJP’s incumbent chief minister Raman Singh and the Congress’s choice Ajit Jogi – are locked in do or die battle. If Singh wins, he scores a hat trick, if Jogi loses it would be end of road for him.

In the 2008 election out of the 90 seats in the state, the BJP won 50, Congress managed 38, and others got 2. While this time around, with the aggressive Congress campaign being spearheaded by Ajit Jogi, tables are expected to be turned.

This would be third time that Raman Singh would be leading the party in electoral battle. But soon after taking charge Singh started populist schemes in 2005-06, whose benefits he harvested in 2008. In the last election what worked for the BJP was their keen wooing of the tribals. In fact they had won 11 out of 12 adivasi seats in Bastar, while one seat went to the Congress. In this election, the tribal trump-card might not work for Singh.

The tribal-inhabited Bastar region is the nucleus of the entire region, asit holds 12 of the 90 assembly constituencies in the state. No party has emerged to power without capturing this sector. Soon after his victory in 2008, Singh gave about 20-36% reservation to tribals in government jobs. For OBCs the quota went down. For SC’s it remained the same. What Singh did not bargain for the anger of the OBC communities, which are also very powerful in the state. So BJP’s loss was immediately Congress’ gain. Tapping the OBC dissent, the Congress decided to encash on this sentiment and began with OBC politics. Undoubtedly what can be viewed as a turning point in the state’s political terrain is the horrific Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Darbha valley on 25 May this year. This event changed the entire political topography and hugely affecting the public sentiment. It was expected that the Congress would turn into a decisive victory tactic, but it has miserably failed to do so far as the BJP’s instantly successfully spread conspiracy theories involving Congress leaders behind the assassination of veteran like Mahendra Karma, Nand Kumar Patel, Vidya Charan Shukla and others.

What seemed imminent was that all the grief and anger would convert into a sympathy wave making the process of garnering votes easy for the Congress. Even before the Congress could have used this situation to their advantage, the BJP took charge and the entire sympathy wave boomeranged. The BJPs spokespersons across the state held conference naming Ajit Jogi as the main conspirator behind this attack and the killing of his partymen. These accusations dented the Congress’s reputation in a big way, damaging its electoral interest immensely.

The biggest asset and simultaneously the biggest liability for the Congress exists in the Jogi factor. Ajit Jogi’s existence is somewhat similar to the infamous Chautala family in Haryana. In comparison to Jogi’s unbridled aggression, Singh is viewed as calm and quiet politician. In this belt – MP and Chhattisgarh – the UP and Bihar style of aggressive politics, doesn’t work much. In fact, Jogi’s contentious image also leads to unpopularity in his own party, leading to infighting. Even a section of leaders in his party feel that Jogi operates on the factionalism principle, wherein either you are with him or not. The general feeling about him in the party is that as he doesn’t believe in taking people along and promotes himself and his people.

But what also works for Jogi is that he a complete state leader and has a presence across the entire state. He also brings along at least ten thousand votes with each seat, so his breakaway will be a huge loss for the Congress. In fact this does at some level work as an arm-twisting tactic by him. Due to his active presence in Chhattisgarh, he also has a huge following and his loss would dent the Congress immensely. In a way because the competition is expected to be neck-and-neck between the Congress and the BJP, so Singh is waiting anxiously for Jogi to break away from the Congress to form his own party, leading to confusion finally Congress’s doom in the state.

Major drawbacks for Jogi are primarily his aggressiveness, his deteriorating health condition, image damage suffered after the conspiracy theory floated by the BJP for the Darbha killings and amongst these the biggest one exists in the form of his tainted son- Amit Jogi, especially for his alleged involvement in the Ram Avatar Jaggi murder case. While Singh tries his luck for the third time, what might be a major setback for him are the graft allegations leveled on him and his ministers. In fact the Congress had alleged Singh and two of his ministers took bribes in crores in a seven-year-old bank fraud case.
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