Home >Politics >Policy >Opinion| A comprehensive rejection of BJP by Chhattisgarh

The comprehensive Congress victory in Chhattisgarh is remarkable for a variety of reasons. For one, it is for the first time that any party has won a two-thirds majority in Chhattisgarh since the state was created in 2000. The Congress has put in its best-ever performance, winning as many as 65 seats and also polling 42.8% votes, 10% more than the BJP and the highest that any party has got so far in Chhattisgarh.

Two, the Congress comeback is notable because it gambled with the game plan of not naming a chief ministerial candidate in a campaign where it was pitched against an established and popular chief minister such as Raman Singh. The Congress policy of collective leadership has worked. Three, the scale of the Congress victory is extensive, widespread, and across the cross-section of the people in Chhattisgarh. The BJP has been rejected by scheduled tribes, the scheduled castes, traders, small- and medium-scale businessmen, women, and youth, especially first-time voters. This widespread rejection of the BJP by a cross-section of people is best reflected in the number of seats the Congress has won across different regions of Chhattisgarh, be it the hilly and tribal-dominated south and Bastar regions, the plains in the north, and urban centres. Four, except for Raman Singh and Brijmohan Agrawal, all BJP ministers lost the elections.

There are four major reasons for such an outright rejection of the BJP and the resurgence of the Congress. One, people were fed up with the arrogant behaviour of some of the BJP politicians, including some ministers and the administration. Second, the failure to generate jobs for the local youth, especially the aspirational class, has hit the BJP very hard. Three, the manifesto promise of alcohol prohibition in Chhattisgarh that the Congress has made won it lot of goodwill and support from tribals, particularly the women who mostly bear the brunt of alcoholism in rural parts. Four, the Congress very smartly and emotively exploited the farm and rural distress in Chhattisgarh by packaging its manifesto with several key promises aimed at the farm and rural constituency. For instance, the promise to waive farm loans within 10 days of coming to power was a big hit among farmers as was the assurance of an MSP of 2,500 per quintal for paddy, the main crop in Chhattisgarh.

The massive Congress triumph, however, has come with an interesting contradiction. Raman Singh has been a very popular chief minister, the one BJP leader with a relatively clean, non-controversial image, and who very bravely based the campaign this time not on the charisma of Modi but his own leadership as well as the legacy of Vajpayee. Singh made such a good CM that in private even Congress leaders wished they had someone like him. Why couldn’t such a popular CM stop the BJP’s debacle? I reckon that Raman Singh bore the brunt of the widespread anti-incumbency against the government, especially against some of his arrogant ministers.

Sushil Trivedi is Raipur-based political commentator and ex-IAS officer.

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