RAIPUR: After its sheen less victory in Gujarat, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Chhattisgarh is all set to get locked in a nail-biting triangular contest in the assembly polls to be held later this year in the state where the vote share for the BJP and main opposition Congress has been very low, less than one per cent.
All the three assembly polls held ever since Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November 2000, faced a very close contest as politics has always been bipolar between the BJP and the Congress. The 2013 polls, in terms of percentage of voters, has been closer with BJP securing just 0.75 per cent more votes than the Congress.
BJP vote share in valid votes was 41.04 per cent while Congress secured 40.29 per cent. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) secured 4.27 per cent votes and Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) polled 1.57 per cent votes.
Even in the 2003 and 2008 assembly polls, the contest was very close between the BJP and the Congress. In the state’s maiden elections 2003, BJP secured 39.26 per cent votes and won 50 seats while the Congress could win only 37 seats by securing 36.712 per cent votes. Congress lost power in 2003 as veteran Congress leader and former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla deserted the Congress party and joined Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which played spoilsport by cutting into Congress votes securing 7.02 per cent votes and winning one seat.
Similarly, the difference in vote share for the BJP and the Congress was 1.7 per cent while BSP secured 6.11 per cent votes and won two seats.
As the BJP enters into the 2018 election year, after completing three consecutive terms in office, the political scenario is changing from bipolar to a triangular contest after former chief minister Ajit Jogi breaking away from Congress and floating a new regional party- the Janata Congress- announcing to field its candidates from all the 90 assembly constituencies in the upcoming assembly polls. A year ahead, Jogi has stumped the BJP and the Congress and announced his partys first list of candidates for 11 constituencies.
Acknowledging the changing political scenario, chief minister Raman Singh himself went public earlier this month saying that the newly floated regional party led by Ajit Jogi was emerging as a third force leading to the possibility of a triangular contest in the next elections.
BJP circles say that the ruling party is hoping that Ajit Jogi’s party would drastically cut into Congress votes, dilute anti-incumbency and ultimately help the party for a fourth consecutive win. Jogi and his party leaders are on an intensive tour across the state to expand Janata Congress support base and for making a major dent in the next polls.
However, Congress leaders, right from Ajit Jogi’s exit from Congress in June last year, has been maintaining that the new situation would benefit the Congress as the people, when voting for a change, would give a clear mandate.
Congress general secretary Shailesh Nitin Trivedi told TOI, “Definitely, the results of Gujarat have further boosted our morale. As compared to Gujarat, Congress organisational structure is very strong in Chhattisgarh which predominantly has been a Congress bastion. Besides, during the last five years, Congress has won local bodies polls, zila panchayat polls, society polls and even students union polls. It is an indication of things to come,” he added.
The ruling BJP is leaving no stone unturned to retain power as it has already begun its exercise. Top leaders are touring tribal areas and wooing powerful scheduled caste Satnami community besides the state government drawing up plan for a massive pre-election multi-media and social media campaign to highlight the achievements of the Raman Singh government.
After undertaking a three-day tour to tribal Bastar, which accounts for 12 seats, state BJP president Dharamlal Kaushik says his party’s main poll plank is development. Opposition Congress is on the verge of split. Its senior leaders are leaving the party one by one. It will be cake walk for the BJP, he added.
Amid all possibility of a very close contest, party sources said, the BJP feel that there is no anti-incumbency as such against the government but its wary of local anti-incumbency against its legislators. Ahead of BJP chief Amit Shah’s visit to Chhattisgarh in May this year, chief minister Raman Singh had hinted at the possibility of party fielding new young faces in about 50 per cent of the constituencies in the next assembly polls. In the process of beating anti-incumbency, party sources said, a major chunk of sitting legislators could be denied ticket and a few ministers could be drafted for the next Lok Sabha polls.