Amid Congress vs BJP contest in Chhattisgarh, smaller parties may queer the pitch

Amid Congress vs BJP contest in Chhattisgarh, smaller parties may queer the pitch

Nov 17, 2023 - 10:30
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Amid Congress vs BJP contest in Chhattisgarh, smaller parties may queer the pitch

In the second phase of voting on Friday, seventy seats of Chhattisgarh went to polls, in which along with the Congress and the BJP, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and a few other smaller parties are in the race.

The trick factor is the swing belt of Bilaspur, which has 25 constituencies – nearly a third of the state’s 90 assembly seats. This is where the battle is expected to be fierce. The Congress, which swept the 2018 elections, has failed to make much headway in this region, while the BJP, did well.

The tribal vote has traditionally gone to the Congress. But this time, smaller parties may queer the pitch.

The Janta Congress Chhattisgarh-Jogi (JCC), the Hamar Raj Party, floated by the Sarv Adivasi Samaj headed by former Congress leader Arvind Netam, and AAP have fielded candidates from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes on general seats. If they corner even a fraction of the votes, it can play into the hands of the BJP.

Of the division’s 24 seats in 2018, the Congress won 12 while the BJP won seven. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party won two seats and then Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) won three seats.

The Chhattisgarh assembly election will be a test for Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, on whom the Congress is pinning its hopes. In an interview to broadcaster NDTV earlier this week, Baghel declared that the party will win more than 75 seats – way more than in 2018. Asked about possible anti-incumbency, he had said the party has worked hard for five years, during the Covid-19 pandemic and after.

“Be it farmers, labourers, tribals, traders or industrialists, we supported everyone during the pandemic… we have schemes for everyone. There is no one who can claim that they lost anything in five years,” he had said.

The Congress won against the BJP government of Raman Singh in 2018, with 68 of the 90 assembly seats in the state. Baghel, who re-built the party in the state after the 2013 Jhiram Ghati Maoist attack, was credited with the victory. He was picked for the top job by the party’s top leadership above three other contenders.

This time, the BJP has not declared a Chief Ministerial candidate, choosing to conduct its campaign by projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party’s focus has been the Other Backward Classes and tribals, who comprise a chunk of the population in both Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which is also going to polls today.

The Congress is banking on its track record. On Diwali, Chief Minister Baghel declared that his government will provide Rs 15,000 per year to all women of the state if Congress returns to power.

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