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EVEN A SMALL SWING MAY MAKE OR MAR POLITICAL FORTUNES
CHHATTISGARH ELECTION RESULTS TO SPRING SURPRISES
By Gyan Pathak
Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha election result is all set to spring up surprises, though most of the poll surveys have predicted that BJP will eventually emerge as the largest political party in the state but may not cross the half-way mark — 45 seats out of 90 in the assembly. The state, according to them, is heading towards a hung assembly. However, even the smallest swing in the percentage of valid votes polled in favour or against a political party may drastically change the situation, and the heavy voter turnout 76.28 per cent in the first phase of election against the average of 73 percent during 2000-20014, that too in the naxal dominated areas, is indicative of a swing.
The alliance of Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is mostly seen as denting into the Congress’s vote bank but may not be able to win more than a couple of seats. But, even a couple of seats may place them in a position to play an important role in formation of government in case of a hung assembly. They are most likely to win less than five seats. It is true that JCC-BSP combine is cutting into the Congress votes, but it is also true that a large number of voters against BJP due to anti-incumbency perceive this combine as the B-team of the BJP and therefore think that voting for them is in fact voting for the BJP. This chunk of voters is, therefore, finally in favour of the Congress. In a dozen seats there are three-cornered fight among the BJP, the Congress, and the JCC-BSP combine, and BJP is in advantageous position wherever there is three-cornered contest.
It is almost a certainty that there is anti-incumbency against the 15 years of BJP rule under the leadership of Raman Singh, which is also reflected in all the poll surveys predicting a loss of seats for the party compared to the general election of 2013 when they won 49 seats. In that election the BJP’s vote percentage was only 7 per cent more than that of the Congress. It resulted in the defeat of Congress, which could get only 39 seats. This time, if only one per cent of swing in the anti-BJP votes goes in favour of Congress, both parties may get 44 seats each. A 1.5 per cent of swing in favour of the Congress may enable them to win 47 seats, and they could form the government on their own. But the same percentage of swing in favour of BJP may put 53 seats in the party’s kitty. Nevertheless, there is no way one can assess the level of swing this time because political winds have been blowing in different directions all along the election campaign.
The support base of the Congress shrunk in Lok Sabha election 2014, when it got only 38 per cent of votes against the BJP’s 49 per cent. However, the panchayat elections of 2016 showed an increase of eight per cent for the Congress as against a decrease of 11 per cent for the BJP, indicating anti-incumbency against the ruling BJP.
The others are most likely to get less than five seats this time, making them most vulnerable to horse trading, apart from the JCC-BSP combine. In case of the BJP and the Congress getting less than the magic number of 46 to form the government, these groups will play the king maker. The bargaining capacity of the JCC-BSP alliance is more compared to the others, therefore, the weaker candidates will be preferred to be won over first by the party forming the government.
There is no denying the fact that the Congress in the state is suffering from lack of leadership of the stature of Raman Singh or Ajit Jogi, who have been the key persons during the whole election process in the state. Ajit Jogi was the first chief minister of the state after its formation in 2000. At that time he was in the Congress, which he left in 2016 after being side-lined. Later, he formed his own Janata Congress Chhattisgarh, which is now contesting in alliance with Mayawati’s BSP. Jogi’s real political strength without Congress will be revealed after the election results are out on December 11. He is the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance while Raman Singh is BJP’s. Congress has not declared its chief ministerial candidate.
The northwest areas of the state are dominated by Scheduled Castes and, therefore, BSP has a considerable support base. The BJP has an edge in the area over Congress. In the northeast districts both the parties are pitted against each other in a neck and neck fight. The BJP is clearly ahead in central districts while the Congress has an upper hand in the southern areas.
The freebies promised by BJP, the Congress, and the JCC-BSP are attractive, but only the results will reveal their impact. We don’t have any indication of their influence so far. The heavy voter turnout seems to be in favour of Congress, while a divided opposition is to the advantage of BJP. No clear chief minister candidate and no leader of the matching status of the present chief minister Raman Singh go against Congress; but anti-incumbency, farm distress and , joblessness go against the BJP.
In brief, surprises are in store. (IPA Service)