March 29, 2014

CHHATTISGARH & LOK SABHA 2014


CAN RAMAN SINGH WIN THE STATE FOR MODI?



In December 2013, the incumbent Chhattisgarh CM Ram Singh won a straight third term even as the BJP ended up with an impressive tally of 49 seats (Link). Six months down the line, as the country gears up for the Lok Sabha polls, many are predicting that the BJP will walk away with the majority of the seats from here. As I have written about it earlier, simply winning more seats than the Congress is not enough; for the 'Mission 272+' to succeed, the BJP has to sweep the state, something that it did in 2009 as well as 2004. Though the Congress bagged ten seats less then the saffron outfit in last year's elections, the difference in the vote share of the two parties was less than one percent. The bottom line is that in spite of scripting a famous victory, the results of the General polls in the state of Chhattisgarh is definitely not a forgone conclusion or a cakewalk for the BJP. However, with almost the whole of the grand old party's top brass in the state being killed in the Dharba Maoist attack, the question is whether it has the leaders who can help garner the votes.

ISSUES

Raman Singh's report card: After a third straight victory in the Chhattisgarh state polls, Dr Singh is on a high. Once a municipal councilor from Karwardha, he rose through the ranks to become the CM of the state after the BJP came to power in 2004. As such, he commands a lot of respect amongst the party workers. His Public Distribution Scheme which provides rice at a nominal rate of Rs. 2 per kg has been a big hit and has earned him the name of 'Chawal wale Baba'. Moreover, the use of technology to ensure the proper implementation of this scheme has been appreciated even by the Central regime. Besides, his image as a pro-development man and his impeccable 'secular' credentials have made him the longest serving amongst all the current BJP Chief Ministers in the country, behind Modi. The saffron campaign is likely to revolve around the work done by Dr Raman Singh in the past decade. To add to this, the large turnout at the BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi's rallies here have further strengthened the party's prospects.

The UPA government's report card: While the saffron camp was able to overcome the anti-incumbency in Raipur, unfortunately for the Congress, it will indeed be an uphill tasks to undo the harm caused by the countless failures of the UPA II government in New Delhi. The Manmohan regime failed to deliver on two issues that have become the talking point of the nation - corruption and development. As if the myriad scams were not enough, the government's inefficiency in controlling price rise and inflation has not gone well with the common man. The BJP will use this as another weapon against the Congress which is already weak here.

Naxalism: If there is one front on which Dr Singh could have done more, in fact much more is regarding controlling the menace of armed Communists. The state continues to be infested with Maoists in spite of steps taken by both, the State and the Central governments. In one such attack in May 2013, most of the top brass of the INC in the state was wiped out. Apart from the Salva Jadum founder Mahendra Karma, the state president Nand Kumar Patel and former Union Minister V C Shukla were also gunned down in the tragic incident. In a bid to win sympathy votes, the party fielded the kin of several of its dead leaders in the state polls and two such candidates - Devati Karma (Dantewada) and Uday Patel (Kharasia) emerged victorious. In absence of strong local leaders to take on the BJP, the Congress may rake up this incident in the General Elections too.

CONTENDERS

(1) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): After dominating the state politics for more than 10 years and winning the legislative assembly elections less than six months back, the BJP is in the driver's seat. Having dropped just one seat in 2013, Raman Singh is all set to lead the party's charge in Chhattisgarh and is expected to rout the Congress. The voices of dissident in the party against him too have stopped. Karuna Shukla, the niece of former PM Vajpayee has left the party whereas Rajya Sabha MP Nand Kumar Sai, another open critic of Singh has been keeping a low profile lately. The saffron camp which bagged 10 seats in the last Lok Sabha has retained six of its sitting MPs. The prominent ones include state party unit president Vishnu Dev Sai (Raigarh), national president of the party's Mahila Morcha Sushree Saroj Pandey (Durg), sitting MLA Vikram Usendi (Kanker) and the CM's son Abhisekh Singh (Rajnandgaon).

(2) Congress: The state's first CM and controversial leader Ajit Jogi will be leading the party in the state. Though he continues to yield considerable influence amongst the Scheduled Tribes and the Christians, he is also a divisive figure. During the last polls, there were allegations that he had informed the Maoists about the movement of other state leaders who were killed in the Dharba attack. Also, he is said to have ensured the defeat of some of his own party candidates, the ones who are not his loyalists during the state polls. Meanwhile, he has been fielded from Mahasamud, the parliamentary constituency he had won in 2004. Charandas Mahant the only Congress nominee to win the 2009 General Elections in the state and a Cabinet Minister will most likely be nominated from Korba whereas Karuna Shukla, the big catch for the INC will be contesting from Bilaspur.

Others: With the two national parties winning a total of 88 of the 90 seats in the state legislature, you can see why the smaller parties in the state have no chance of winning even a single seat. Of course, the AAP is an exception since it is making its debut here in 2014 and it remains to be seen how much of an impact it can make. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has given tickets to folk artist Lakshman Masuriya (Mahasamund) and controversial tribal activist Soni Sori (Bastar) who has been accused of being linked to Maoists. With such strong contenders, do not be surprised if Kejriwal's outfit will win one seat. The Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) which had the third largest vote share and won a single seat in 2013 is not expected to open its account. Amongst the other local players are the National People's Party (NPP), the Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GPP), the Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Morcha (CSM), the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM), the JD(U) and the Left parties.

PAST PERFORMANCE

Formed during the NDA regime in 2001, the state of Chhattisgarh has been one of the strongholds of the BJP. While Ajit Jogi was the first CM of the state, the saffron outfit won a handsome victory in 2003 state elections under late Dileep Singh Judeo. However, after the former royal was allegedly caught on tape accepting a bribe, the party chose Dr Raman Singh for the top post. Having delivered on key parameters for 11 years in a row, the incumbent CM's popularity has been one of the biggest reasons for the BJP to do so well here. In fact, I like to call the post 2003 period in the state politics as the 'Raman Era'. Under him, the saffronists have swept the last two Lok Sabha polls here, winning 10 of the 11 parliamentary seats. On the other hand, the Congress has never been able to cross the 40 mark in the state assembly.

Political Party
2013 SE
2009 LE
2008 SE
2004 LE
2003 SE
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
49
10
50
10
50
Congress (INC)
39
1
38
1
37
Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP)
1
-
2
-
2
Others
1
-
-
-
1

(1) There are 90 seats in the Chhattisgarh legislative assembly.

(2) Chhattisgarh sends 11 MPs to the Parliament.

MY PREDICTIONS

The BJP is all set to win the majority of the seats here. However, winning 10 seats like in the previous two polls will be difficult. I expect the saffron outfit to win 8 to 10 seats. The Congress is likely to increase its tally to 2 seats. The AAP has a good chance of bagging one seat.

Political Party
Expected Seats
1
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
8-10
2
Congress (INC)
1-2
3
Aam Admi Party (AAP)
0-1


WATCH OUT

(1) Son-rise in Chhattisgarh: With the BJP giving a ticket to Abhisekh Singh, the son of the incumbent CM, it seems that another dynasty is begining to emerge in Indian politics. Dr Raman Singh enjoys immense popularity in Chhattisgarh and has helped the BJP dominate politics here for a long time. As such, it is not at all surprising that the party has decided to 'reward' him with this gesture. It will be interesting to see how the young Turk performs in the upcoming polls. A win will cement his place in politics and he might even be inducted in the Union cabinet, that is of course if the BJP comes to power in 2014.

(2) The future of Ajit Jogi: A lot is on the line for Ajit Jogi, the first CM of the state. After three straight loses, it is highly unlikely that he will ever occupy the top post, even if the INC comes to power. Although the party does not have any other leader of equal stature, his involvement in several controversies will prove a big hindrance to his political ascent anywhere in the near future. To stay relevant in politics, Jogi has to win the Mahasamund seat which will see a tough triangular contest this time around. Meanwhile, the wheel chair bound politician has already passed on the baton to his son Amit Jogi who is the serving MLA from Marwahi. Besides, his wife Renu Jogi too has won from the Kota assembly seat.

For more posts in this series:
(1) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)