‘Manifesto, focus on OBCs key to Congress’ Chhattisgarh win’, says party worker

A sustained focus on other backward classes (OBCs), improved booth-level management and transparent ticket distribution are some of the key reasons the Congress has identified as contributing to its electoral victory in Chhattisgarh, a party functionary familiar with the assessment said.

The Congress won the elections held in Chhattisgarh in November and returned to power with 68 seats in the 90-member state assembly after a gap of 15 years. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to win just 15 seats, while alliance partners, former Congress leader Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won seven seats together. A group of Congress leaders involved in the election process in Chhattisgarh have prepared a report on the party’s success formula, which is likely to be replicated in other states. In the report, which HT has accessed, the leaders said the party implemented the idea of the booth and sector-level in-charges across the state for the first time.

“This organisational dynamism from booth to state level helped the party in effective election management at different levels,’’ said the report. It added these trained in-charges effectively countered those of the BJP.

The Congress focussed on breaking the BJP’s hold over the OBC communities. Bhupesh Baghel, an OBC politician from the Kurmi caste, was appointed as the state chief while Tamradhwaj Sahu was inducted into the party’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee, as part of the strategy. Likewise, All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary Chandan Yadav was made the party’s Chhattisgarh in-charge. Sahus, Kurmis, and Yadavs account for 70% of the state’s farming population. These leaders campaigned extensively.

After Jogi parted ways with the party, the Congress kept its focus on non-Satnami voters. Jogi enjoys considerable influence over the Satnami scheduled caste community. His alliance with the BSP made it tough for the Congress to woo the Dalits, who along with tribals account for 42% of the state’s population. The Satnamis and tribals shifted allegiance to the JCC-BSP alliance in these elections. The damage was to a certain extent minimised as the Congress named PL Punia, a Dalit, as in-charge of Chhattisgarh and Arun Oraon, a tribal, as AICC secretary. The manifesto, prepared after consultations with over 150,000 people, too, has been credited for the party’s victory along with tickets distribution as per a newly-introduced system, under which Congress workers get a say in candidate selection.