Its a spicy contest here between Chhattishgarh's first Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and 11 “Chandu Bhaiyas”, 10 of whom are rumoured to be Jogi's own men.
Sitting MP Chandulal Sahu, aka Chandu Bhaiya, is the BJP candidate at Mahasamund, about 60 km from the state capital of Raipur. Jogi represented the constituency in the 14th Lok Sabha, winning the seat by more than 1 lakh votes in 2004.
Days before the 2004 election, the former chief minister had met with an accident at Gariabandh, which let him wheelchair-bound; his health has improved over the past few years. Jogi claimed he could not come to the constituency for a long time because of his failing health.
Soliciting votes, Jogi is saying that he could not do much work in his first term in Lok Sabha because of his accident. “But an wounded tiger is more dangerous than a tiger,” he says. Many electors remember him fondly for the work he had done decades ago as collector in this part of the country.
“He will win for his charisma, though the margin may be less. Sahu may get some votes for the Modi factor,” said Mohan Yadav, a young voter from Shiv Chowk.
The BJP had steadily gained strength in his absence due to that accident. Knowing that Chandu Bhaiya would not be an easy walkover, the Jogi camp has brought in 10 more “Chandu Bhaiyas” this time.
There are six people named Chandu Lal Sahu, one named Chandoo Lal Sahu and three named Chandu Ram Sahu contesting as independents. All of them are known as “Chandu Bhaiya”. The polling is scheduled on April 17.
Moreover, there are eight other independent candidates. Even if all of them get a few hundreds of votes, the total would be substantial, which could be crucial in the counting.
While the BJP is crying foul, Jogi brushed off allegations and claimed ignorance. “It is an independent country and everybody is free to contest the polls,” he told Deccan Herald after addressing a meeting at Shiv Chowki Ward No 24—a slum area in dusty Mahasamund.
The strategy, however, is not new to the Jogi family, which may have learnt the trick from former Jashpur king and BJP stalwart in the state Dilip Singh Judeo.
In 2009, Judeo contested against Renu Jogi—wife of Ajit Jogi—from Bilaspur. He fielded 19 independent candidates from the lower caste to seize votes that were traditionally with Jogi. There were 20 independents, who polled more than 60,000 votes.
Even if the tally of the independent candidate who got the maximum (13,800) votes was subtracted, the remaining 19 candidates accounted for 46,430 votes, whereas Judeo's winning margin was 20,139 votes. Clearly, the strategy worked. Take out even the second-largest vote-grabber (6,000-plus), and the remaining 18 still collectively pulled almost 40,000 votes.