Ajit Jogi may be kingmaker

Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh’s fourth assembly election will be different from the previous three. Two new political outfits have entered the turf of BJP, Congress and BSP: Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), floated by former Congress leader and former CM Ajit Jogi; and AAP, which has come up in a massive way under the leadership of Dr Sanket Thakur, an agriculture scientist and activist. The party is planning to field candidates in 90 assembly seats. 

The BJP has been in power for 15 years, providing political stability in the state when compared to two other states formed at the same time, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. This has helped in ‘development’, mainly in infrastructure (roads and buildings), changes in social sector and in health sector. BJP is relying on Chief Minister Raman Singh. The Congress has not yet been able to dent his image on any major issue. Singh is also proactive in trying to mollify discontent as it arises. He has made a series of announcements benefiting contract and government employees and farmers. But Congress has found a crack in his defences: his son Abhishek Singh, MP from Rajnandgoan, whose name has cropped in the Panama Papers.

Chhattisgarh region was once a Congress stronghold, but the party has never won an election after the formation of the state. Its failure has been one of leadership. Former union minister Charandas Mahant was state party president and now the heads the campaign committee, but is not a mass leader. In 2013, when Nand Kumar Patel took over the reigns and infused new energy, being a mass leader, the party was inching towards victory. Then, the Jheeram Valley massacre happened, and everything became bleak as the Congress lost its top leadership. Now, Bhagel, also an OBC, is party president but he is seen as arrogant by his own partymen. After AICC general secretary and state in-charge PL Punia arrived in the state, he has been trying to bring all Congress leaders together. Mahant has also indicated that the party would talk with smaller parties GGP and BSP for a pre-poll alliance.

One incident this year was crucial, the Pathalgudi incident, which made national headlines. A few NGOs have been working round the clock to create awareness among the tribals in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh their constitutional rights and other issues. This movement was crushed in Jharkhand and later in Chhattisgarh, but its embers still burn.

The present trend suggests that there is anti-incumbency against the BJP but the Congress is not yet a force to reckon with. Ajit Jogi and perhaps AAP are going to have an impact, and so may the Gondwana Gantantra Party, which is mainly of tribal leaders. In 2003, the Nationalist Congress Party, led by Vidya Charan Shukla, had played a key role in the formation of the BJP government. This time, Jogi could well play that role.  

 

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