Chhattisgarh: BJP can count on Raman Singh's quiet charisma again

That the death of the Congress is a chronicle foretold perhaps best surmises what is coming the party's way in the forthcoming Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh on 11 and 19 November. Having failed to rule the state for even one term ever since it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh, the Congress now stares at another defeat according to a pre-poll survey jointly conducted by Lokniti and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Chhattisgarh for CNN-IBN and The Week.

Apart from the quiet charisma and effectiveness of Chief Minister Raman Singh, the big organisational loopholes in the Congress is one reason for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to have an edge over the Congress.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh. PTI

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh. PTI

What difference has Chief Minister Raman Singh made?

"Raman Singh stays low key, he is sober, willing to deliver through good work and good governance. The only challenge for him has been internal security," said senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta, one of the panelists in the discussion anchored by CNN-IBN's Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai.

According to him, the "greatest worry for the BJP is anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs." However, the BJP has largely addressed the problem by making sure that most of these legislators do not get tickets to contest again.

"The BJP has ushered in many new faces this time," Dasgupta said.

Lokniti Network's national coordinator Sandeep Shastri said that when even after 10 years people want Singh back as the chief minister it speaks volumes about the man.

"He has done a commendable job as a chief minister in his 10 years of governance. Singh's Re 1 rice scheme is rated better than the Centre's food security bill. While the food security bill of the Centre targets 67 percent of the population, Singh's unique rice scheme covers 90 percent of the population in the state," Shastri said.

The Congress dilly-dallying on announcing a chief ministerial candidate is also doing little to help the party and gives Singh the advantage.

"The importance of announcing the chief ministerial candidate now matters a lot. There is always ambiguity in the Congress camp as no chief ministerial candidate is named," said Dasgupta.

Organisational chaos in Congress

Organisational neatness as compared to organisational mess comes out in the open when the political infrastructure of the Congress vis-a-vis BJP in Chhattisgarh is taken into consideration.

"Congress is all back to dynastic politics. Relatives of Jogi, (slained Congress leader Mahendra) Karma have all got tickets. All this is happening even after Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi announced that the days of dynastic politics are long gone," said columnist Pushpesh Pant.

Looking at the internal troubles of the Congress, Dasgupta positioned himself on a different platform.

"It won't be a landslide for the BJP but it will also not a close fight as it was expected to be. The BJP expects incremental vote on the strength of the national leadership while the Congress leaders at the Centre have been a drag. Rahul has been talking incessantly about building Congress infrastructure at the grassroots level. But after eight years of that, the party is still to find its roots. In fact, BJP's record for governance is quite good, barring Karnataka," he said.

The organisational slippages within the Congress have now resulted in a bonus for the BJP.

"The BJP has made inroads into Congress strongholds in the tribal areas. Organisationally the BJP is much better right down to the village level as compared to the Congress. Even when the 25 May massacre by the Naxals on Congress state leadership happened, the BJP came up with stories that a Congress leader was a prime conspirator. The result was that these stories have deprived the Congress of sympathy votes that they were quietly hoping for," said special correspondent, The Week, Deepak Tiwari.

CNN-IBN's National Affairs Editor Bhupendra Choubey said the Congress is now struggling to wrest states away from the BJP.

"Organisational problems have always been Congress's Achilles' heel," he said.

Ajit Jogi: A boon or bane for Congress

Many political pundits in the panel expressed doubts over the sincerity of Congress leader Ajit Jogi in helping the party to win the polls.

"Ajit Jogi may turn out to be a non-performing asset for the Congress. He never allowed any other leader to come up," said Choubey. However, irony for the Congress is the party cannot afford to ignore him.

"Jogi is a familiar face among the tribals. But the problem is that the middle class and many Congress leaders in the state don't like Jogi," said Tiwari.

Dasgupta felt that the way NGOs, Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh, Jogi went after Mahendra Karma, the brain behind Salwa Judum (who was killed by the Naxals on 25 May this year), it was clear no other tribal leader could grow big alongside Jogi.

The Modi vs Rahul impact

There is little doubt that Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has taken the poll scenario by storm.

"Modi is a significant value addition but primarily it is a regional election. Modi has created enough of a buzz but the contribution of the local leaders cannot be forgotten," said Dasgupta.

On the other hand, the outlook for Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is lukewarm.

"Rahul's credibility is low. He is unable to attract votes. There is absence of real charisma in Congress. The death of the Congress is a chronicle foretold," said Pant, who was a part of the panel, in no uncertain terms.

Congress' failure to tackle Naxals effectively

"BJP has always been better equipped to deal with the Naxals than the Congress," said Shastri.

Pant believed that it was the Centre's inability as it does not know how to deal with the Naxals.

Demographic patterns

The Congress can still hope to do well at some pickets despite a dismal overall show in the November polls.

"Many of the Dalits and tribal votes are still pro-Congress. Actually, Congress is doing very well with its Muslim vote base," said Shastri.

Whether the Congress will be able to spring a surprise and capture the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly for the first time ever will be known on 8 December -- the day of counting of votes.

Updated Date: Oct 29, 2013 07:37 AM

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