Killing of BJP MLA changes poll dynamics in Bastar

Killing of BJP MLA changes poll dynamics in Bastar

An undated picture of BJP legislator Bheema Mandavi who was killed in an IED blast triggered by the Maoists in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, on April 9, 2019. PTI

Killing of a BJP legislator in a Maoist ambush in Dantewada, 36 hours before the voting, has changed the poll dynamics in the Bastar region.

Bhima Mandavi, a sitting BJP MLA from Dantewada Assembly seat who was killed in a Maoist ambush on Wednesday, was a popular face and an influential leader of the saffron party in Bastar region.

He was the only BJP candidate who won in the last Assembly polls from the Bastar division.

Mandavi defeated Congress candidate Devati Karma, wife of the grand old party heavyweight Mahendra Karma who was killed by Maoists ahead of Assembly polls in 2013, with a small margin of votes.

The BJP, which had four Assembly seats with it out of twelve in the Bastar division, lost other three seats to the Congress in the Assembly polls held in November 2018.

In this Lok Sabha election, the saffron party was banking on Mandavi to help party’s candidate retain the Bastar Lok Sabha seat reserved for the Scheduled Tribe.

The Bastar Lok Sabha seat has been with the BJP since 1999.

The BJP has fielded its ex-MLA Baiduram Kashyap against the Congress’ sitting legislator Dinesh Baij from the Bastar Lok Sabha constituency, dropping the party’s sitting MP Dinesh Kashyap.

Baij, had defeated Kashyap in the state Assembly polls in 2013 while contesting from the Chitrakoot Assembly seat.

Kashyap, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Bastar seat for last two consecutive terms, is the son of BJP leader Baliram Kashyap, who had held the same seat since 1999.

BJP propped up Kashyap to retain the seat after his father passed away in 2011.

After a gap of 20 years, the Congress is hoping to wrest the Bastar seat from the BJP this time, relying on the massive mandate that the grand old party received in the Assembly polls five months ago.

However, after the killing of Mandavi, the BJP has stepped up its attack on the Congress on the issue of Left-wing extremism as Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had recently said that “bullet for bullet” was not the answer to deal with the Maoist menace.

In 2013, the Congress’s entire leadership was wiped out in the state with the killing of Mahendra Karma, architect of Salwa Judum, and 27 other party leaders including former Union minister V C Shukla.

As the incident took place a few months before the Assembly polls in the state and it drew public sentiments across Chhattisgarh, the Congress which was then in Opposition was expected to wrest power from the BJP.

But, the BJP won the elections and formed its government under Raman Singh for the third consecutive term.