Raipur: All calculations of three-time winner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and efforts of the Opposition Congress to win the upcoming Chhattisgarh polls may come to nought if the uncanny political alliance between the newly constituted Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) clicks with the state electorate.
Chhattisgarh — long considered a fort of the Congress, even in undivided Madhya Pradesh when the party used to win the maximum seats from the region — was created in 2000 and got its first chief minister in Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi, a bureaucrat-turned-politician then part of the Congress.
Three years of his tenure saw plenty of ups and downs and a turn towards caste politics. As a result, in the 2003 Assembly polls, a public in turmoil brought the BJP to power, and the saffron party has been ruling the state for 15 years now under Raman Singh.
Ajit Jogi, the ‘spoilsport’
Two years ago, Jogi and his son Amit broke away from the Congress over allegations of anti-party activities, and Jogi was quick to form the JCC, a regional outfit with a national outlook. Today, he is a liability to both the BJP and Congress, though both refuse to admit it.
Congress leaders called his party the ‘B-team’ of the BJP, while the BJP insists JCC will not make any impact in the state polls. Yet, Jogi has played his cards tactfully, allying with Mayawati’s BSP and the CPI, with the coalition likely to mar the prospects of the two main parties.
For this election, the JCC and BSP have decided to go for a 55:35 seat-sharing ratio, with JCC getting the chunk of seats and the chief minister's chair. Their alliance is expected to capitalise on 15 seats — a number large enough to alter the course of government formation in Chhattisgarh.
Jogi also recently announced withdrawal from the election fray, saying he would fully concentrate on the alliance’s election campaign in 90 seats, after challenging Chief Minister Raman Singh to an open contest in his home turf of Rajnandgaon. However, by Monday, there were speculations that Jogi may take a U-turn on his earlier stand, after people from his traditional stronghold of Marwahi constituency approached him and requested his nomination.
Going by the 2013 election math, the BSP has a considerable presence in 11 Assembly constituencies, with its vote share ranging from 1 percent to 30 percent in these seats. Currently, the party’s lone MLA is Keshav Chandra, who has been retained as a candidate from Jaijaipur.
In 2003, the BSP had won two seats in the Assembly — Kamda Jhole from Sarangarh (Scheduled Caste) and Lalsay Khunte from Malkharoda (SC) — and in 2008, it had bagged the two seats of Akaltara and Pamgarh under Saurabh Singh and Dujram Bouddh. The BJP had won 50 seats that year, while the Congress held 38. In 2013, Saurabh quit the BSP and joined the Congress. Jhole was expelled from the BSP for anti-party activities.
Traditionally speaking, Jogi’s supporters have been seen gravitating towards the BJP, but with the JCC in action, all such votes are expected to shift back to his party, hitting at the BJP and Congress vote-bank — both parties had a vote difference of just below 1 percent in the last elections.
Jogi’s family itself has considerable influence in the Marwahi and Kota constituencies of Chhattisgarh. On Congress tickets, Jogi’s son Amit had won from Marwahi, while Jogi’s wife Renu had emerged victorious in Kota. Amit is now with Jogi’s JCC, but Renu has expressed her wish to go for a Congress ticket again.
Two sitting Congress MLAs, Siyaram Kaushik from Bilha and RK Rai from Gunderdehi constituencies, are with Jogi now, but his daughter-in-law Richa Jogi is in the fray from Akaltara on a BSP ticket. JCC’s former candidate from Chandrapur, Gitanjali Patel, also joined the BSP a few days ago and has been retained on the party ticket.
However, Chhattisgarh’s poll history shows that candidates have rarely won elections unless they have been mass leaders.
CPI, the add-on
On Sunday, Jogi announced a pre-poll alliance with the CPI for the Chhattisgarh elections, with the Left party getting two seats to contest in South Bastar — Dantewada and Konta — where it already has considerable influence. CPI’s Manish Kunjam, a former MLA, will fight against Deputy Leader of Opposition and Congress’ sitting MLA Kawasi Lakhma from Konta.
CR Bakshi, central control commission secretary of the CPI, said the party would field candidates on other seats, too, such as Jagdalpur, Kondagaon and Keshkal, and the alliance will support them. Candidates have already been declared for these seats, as well as for Dantewada. The Janjgir-Champa district is also being considered for the polls.
Likely to join the JCC-BSP-CPI coalition is the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, whose president Janak Lal Thakur confirmed that they had held talks with CPI leaders. He hopes a final decision on the alliance will be made soon.
Jogi has expressed hope that people will develop a sense of belonging with the alliance, headed by the regional JCC. Jogi’s father has a following among Dalits, Muslims and Christians and, he said, the three parties are cadre-based, having a direct link with the poor and downtrodden, as well as an understanding of local aspirations.
In his manifesto, Jogi has already submitted an affidavit, listing the 12 things he would do if he comes to power. He pointed out that no other political party has clarity on promises to voters as they have to look towards New Delhi for decision-making, whereas his JCC has no such compulsions.
BJP state general secretary Santosh Pandey admitted that the JCC-BSP-CPI alliance has an influence in around 11-12 SC-dominated seats, mainly in the Janjgir-Champa region and the Left-favoured three seats in the Bastar region, including Bilaspur. “The alliance will be concentrating on these winnable seats. But it would not have much impact on the BJP,” Pandey insisted.
Another entrant in the Chhattisgarh political arena with much fanfare is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which claims to be a favourable alternative to both the BJP and Congress. Its state in-charge, Gopal Rai, has already termed the JCC-BSP-CPI alliance a sinking boat.
Clearly, AAP is expecting to repeat its New Delhi performance in Chhattisgarh, but going by the party's performance in the Karnataka Assembly polls, even opening their account in Chhattisgarh will be an achievement.
The author is a Raipur-based freelance writer and part of 101Reporters
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Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 14:43 PM