Raipur: The 15-year rule of the Raman Singh-led BJP government in Chhattisgarh came to a halt as results of the state Assembly Election were declared on Tuesday. The saffron party managed to win only eight seats and was leading in six seats at 10 pm while the Congress emerged as the undisputed winner, bagging 60 seats (and leading in seven) of the total 90 seats in the state Assembly. The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) coalition won five seats and were leading on four seats at the time of writing this article.
Chhattisgarh voters' wish for change was evident in the vote share garnered by the Congress, which remained more than 10% higher than that of the BJP throughout the counting day. While the Congress’ vote share shuffled around 43 percent, that of BJP remained stuck below 33 percent. The vote share of the Congress in the last two elections was only marginally lesser than the BJP’s by 0.75 percent in 2013 and 1.5 percent in 2008.
Many BJP ministers have been left behind in the tally as counting comes to close. Earlier in the day, by 3 pm, veteran BJP leader and sitting home minister Ramsewak Paikra was trailing in Pratappur Assembly constituency by nearly 5,000 votes (gap widened to 44,000 votes by 10 pm), PWD minister Rajesh Munat was trailing by more than 3,000 votes in Raipur City West (gap widened to over 10,000 by 10 pm), and urban development minister Amar Agrawal was trailing behind Shailesh Pandey of Congress by nearly 3,000 votes in Bilaspur (gap widened to over 11,000 by 10 pm). Official announcements were yet not made.
At 3 pm, Cabinet minister Brijmohan Agrawal managed to regain a lead of about 1,500 votes after trailing behind Kanhaiya Agrawal of Congress for the most part of the day. By 10 pm, Agrawal seemed confident of a win with a lead of over 19,000 votes. Raman Singh’s day began with trailing Karuna Shukla of Congress in Rajnandgaon but he managed a thin lead over former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece post-lunch.
Congress' Tamradhwaj Sahu, who was leading in Durg Gramin, attributed the victory to the people of Chhattisgarh and said his party has defeated "bad governance".
The BJP office in Raipur wore a deserted look since morning. Party spokesperson Sachchidanand Upasane said the ruling party had gone before the people with its 15 years of development works and pro-public welfare schemes. “The BJP national president has given the target of 65-plus, but with the trends coming, it has to be seen what went wrong,” he said.
Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel on Twitter attributed the victory to the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and PL Punia, along with the determined efforts put in by the ground workers, and said that the party will develop a “new Chhattisgarh” now.
Counting of votes was conducted amid heavy security arrangement outside various counting centres set up by the State Election Commission and no untoward incidents that could obstruct the process in any way were reported throughout the day. One incidence of a Naxal attack on patrolling party was reported from Chintagupha in Sukma, in which one CRPF trooper succumbed to injuries.
Congress is leading on all seats in Koriya, Surajpur, Balrampur, Surguja, Mahasamund, Balod, Kanker, Bastar-Jagdalpur, Kondagaon, and Sukma districts, and on most seats in other districts such as Durg, Raipur and Rajnandgaon.
TS Singh Deo, Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, said along with this victory comes the responsibility on legislators to implement the promises made during the campaign. He said that focusing on issues of farmers, youths and tribal population helped the Congress gain the trust of the electorate. On the question of his chances to be the next chief minister of the state, Deo said the Congress legislators’ meeting will decide upon probable names and send them to the high command.
Interestingly, former Chhattisgarh Congress chief Dhanendra Sahu, who was leading in Abhanpur by more than 6,000 votes had recently said he was ready to become the chief minister if the party allows him to. He had said that if Congress came to power, the next chief minister should essentially be from a farming background and should come from either the other backward classes or Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes. Deo responded saying it is a “viable” question and the forum is open for promising candidates, many of whom are farmers.
JCC founder Ajit Jogi said he was happy with the response his “new party” garnered this election. Refuting the claim by several Congress members that his leaving actually contributed to the party’s improved performance, Jogi said, “We have been claiming our presence, which is reflected in the result.”
Jogi was himself leading in Marwahi by more than 45,000 votes.
Early intervention and focused criticism of the ruling BJP, both at the Centre and in the state, by the Congress seems to have worked in party’s favour.
Gandhi’s rallies targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his slogan of “Chowkidar Chor hai”, and he also acknowledged problems of the farmers, youths, and the women. Apart from that, the failure of the BJP government in providing proper infrastructure like roads, credit availability to farmers and creating jobs for the youths led to a widespread dissatisfaction among the masses, which translated into their votes against the party. The consistent campaign of the Naxals in the red corridor also managed to highlight the failures of the BJP government in bringing peace to the state with its strategy of a renewed offensive in the areas affected by Left-Wing Extremism. The state witnessed several attacks and constant calls for the boycott of elections by the Naxals ahead of the two phases of voting conducted on 12 and 28 November.
The author is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 23:25:41 IST