Raipur: In a stunning electoral turnaround, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has wrested power from Congress (BJP won 54 seats, Congress took 35) in the Chhattisgarh Assembly polls.
The defeat marks a huge setback for the Congress, as the Bhupesh Baghel-led government, which previously had 68 seats in the 90-member house, has been routed in several of its bastions. The majority of ministers in the present government have lost their respective constituencies, signalling a seismic shift in the political landscape of the state.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is likely to retain his Patan seat. BJP vice-president and three-time chief minister Raman Singh has retained his Rajnandgaon seat by a margin of more than 35,000 votes, defeating his nearest Congress rival Girish Dewangan in a multi-cornered contest.
BJP has a clear edge in all the 14 seats in Surguja region in North Chhattisgarh, where deputy chief minister T S Singhdeo is trailing behind his BJP rival Rajesh Agrawal. Despite BJP’s anti-conversion stance, its lone Christian candidate Prabodh Minj has won from the Lundra (ST) constituency. The saffron party has established its supremacy in the majority of seats in the tribal Bastar region.
State BJP president Arun Sao (Lormi), former Union Minister Vishnu Deo Sai (Kunkuri-ST), and Union Minister Renuka Singh (Bharatpur-Sonhat-ST) have also gained lead as the counting is still in progress.
Reacting to his party heading towards a victory, BJP-vice president Raman Singh, who was chief minister for 15 years, said “Good riddance from politics of fear and intimidation. After securing a huge majority in the 2018 elections, Baghel and his team lost connection with the masses. Governance went for a toss, the focus was on corruption and it ignored development”.
It seems Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign in Chhattisgarh, packaging all promises as "Modi's guarantee", has worked wonders for the BJP. Door-to-door outreach, even filling forms for schemes, seems to have reinforced BJP's credibility among the masses. Apart from this, BJP's central leadership, led by Amit Shah, took full control of the campaigning in the state. Planning, selection of candidates and strategizing were all done by the central team. Early candidate announcements and constituency-wise strategies showcased the BJP's organizational strength in the state.
BJP also capitalized on the corruption allegations against the Congress, with Modi targeting Baghel. The narrative around the Mahadev App betting scandal, coal levy scam, and liquor scam worked in favour of the BJP. Modi's announcement to extend the free food grains scheme for five more years, just before the elections, also played a crucial role in gaining the trust of the people.
BJP adjusted its stance on key issues, including increased support prices and bonuses for farmers. The promise of single-instalment payments and clearing pending bonuses appealed to the farming community. Also, the split in votes caused by other parties like Janata Congress Chhattisgarh and alliances like AAP-GGP-BSP and Hamar Raj Party (HRP) helped the BJP.
Multi-cornered contests also worked in BJP's favour in several constituencies. Congress struggled to mount an effective response to BJP's onslaught. Besides, it also failed to manage the political aspirations of smaller allies, leading to multi-cornered contests. The split in votes, especially in closely contested seats, worked against Congress.
Infighting within Congress, highlighted by public clashes between leaders like TS Singhdeo and Baghel, also added to Congress's miseries.
The focus on rural development by the Baghel government left urban infrastructure ignored. The neglect of roads, flyovers, and civic amenities in urban areas contributed to Congress's loss.