The state elections in Chhattisgarh are due in November 2018 along with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. While Congress is hoping to snatch the state from BJP after 15 years being out of power, BJP is aiming for a 4th consecutive victory under the leadership of Dr. Raman Singh. Amidst all this, Ajit Jogi is threatening to upset the calculations of both Congress and BJP and become Chief Minister yet again.

Bipolar contest, however, Jogi’s entry makes it triangular

In 2000, the state Chhattisgarh was carved out from Madhya Pradesh honoring a long-standing demand. From 2000-2003, Ajit Jogi led the charge, becoming the first Chief Minister of the new state. In the first elections for the state held in 2003, BJP emerged victorious and Dr. Raman Singh became the Chief Minister. BJP won consecutive elections again in 2008 and 2013 riding on development work carried out by its government and popularity of Raman Singh. Chhattisgarh has witnessed a bipolar contest with direct fight between Congress and BJP all these years.

In the upcoming elections, Chhattisgarh Janta Congress-Jogi (CJC-J) is likely to play an important role. Party president and former CM Ajit Jogi, despite his deteriorating health, is very willing to contest the elections against Dr. Raman Singh from his home constituency of Rajnandgaon. He has been pitching himself as the CM candidate which means he is solely riding on any loyalty he might have left in the state besides the sympathy. He clearly does not trust his son’s abilities to lead the way, which is why he is contesting from his traditional seat of Marwahi as well.

Ajit Jogi and the Congress leadership have denied any possibilities of an alliance. Jogi has met Mayawati in Lucknow to seal an alliance. BSP has 4%-6% vote share in the state with decent influence among the Dalit community. The BSP has pockets of support base in the Dalit-dominated Satnami belt in central Chhattisgarh. Mayawati is in big demand as Congress is also exploring the option of forming an alliance with BSP as it could provide it the edge also compensating for loss of votes to Jogi Congress. There are strong rumors that CJC-J is the “B team” of BJP and may provide support in case it fails to secure majority. However, both Ajit Jogi and BJP have denied any such possibility.

Historically a tight contest

Chhattisgarh has since inception witnessed a close contest. The vote share gap between BJP and Congress which was 2.6% in 2003 has gradually reduced to 0.7% in 2013. At the same time BSP’s vote share has been higher than the margin of victory of BJP in all elections. This is the reason Congress top leadership is desirous of forming an alliance with the BSP. If BSP and INC would have contested the 2013 polls together, the alliance would have won 52 out of 90 seats and formed the government (assuming seamless and full transfer of votes).

2003

2008 2013
BJP Vote Share

39.3%

40.3% 42.30%
INC Vote Share

36.7%

38.6% 41.60%
Gap

2.6%

1.7% 0.7%

BSP Vote Share

4.4% 6.1%

4.4%

BJP Seat Tally

50 50

49

INC Seat Tally

37 38

39

Gap

13 12

10

Source: http://www.indiavotes.com

Jogi hopes to split the ST vote and damage both BJP and Congress

Scheduled Tribes account for 32% of state population. 29 seats are reserved for the STs. Congress received 45% and BJP 44% support of the community in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. 5 out of 27 districts are ST dominated. There are 35 seats where ST population is above 40%, Congress won 22 and BJP 13 of these in 2013.

Jogi hopes to wean away his community votes from Congress as well as BJP and dent their prospects. Jogi has filed a petition in the Chhattisgarh High Court challenging the report of a high-level panel of the state government which has dismissed his claim of being a tribal and is likely to make this an election issue.

Congress hopes to benefit from anti-incumbency while BJP from factionalism in Congress

Congress is hoping to make a comeback exploiting any anti-incumbency sentiment, which is very natural to develop against a 15-year-old government. Its campaign is focused on targeting the BJP on agricultural distress, farmer suicides, Naxalism, low pay grade of shikshakarmis and nurses, controversies surrounding the cabinet and other party members, below national level health indicators of the state, and increasing incidents of crimes against women and girls.

The senior leadership in Congress has decided to go into the state assembly elections without announcing its chief ministerial candidate, keeping in mind the various factions that the state unit of the Congress is struggling to keep together and in line with its strategy adopted in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It is contesting the state elections on combined leadership of Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh PCC President) and T.S. Singh Deo (Leader of Opposition).

While Baghel gives public and social media statements demeaning the incumbent state and central government, Singh Deo can be seen campaigning among the people with the party manifesto. There are also the added factions of possible CM candidates like Dr. Charan Das Mahant and Dhanendra Sahu. This is what BJP is exploiting to the hilt. Where elections are increasingly becoming Presidential style not having a clear CM candidate will hurt the Congress party. Not only this, the fact that Ajit Jogi enjoys higher popularity than Baghel and Singh Deo further aggravates the leadership bankruptcy of the party in the state.

CM Candidate Preference (Source: IBN 7 Survey)

CG2

BJP expects to win on Raman plus Modi factor

BJP expects to win on the back of the development track record of Dr. Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh and Narendra Modi government in the center.  Chhattisgarh under Dr. Singh has excelled extremely, especially on the economic and social front. Chhattisgarh is making significant investments in industrial infrastructure. It is one of the fastest growing states with a GSDP growth of 10.75% CAGR between 2011-12 and 2017-18. Dr. Singh is also popular among the women folk for implementing number of women centric schemes. PM Modi has also visited the state multiple times this year, during the CM’s Vikas Yatra and his schemes like PMAY and Ujjawala Yojana are popular here.

To sum up, entry of Jogi has made the contest too close to call the election in Chhattisgarh which has traditionally witnessed tight contests. Strategic alliances and leadership issue could well decide the outcome of the state.

With inputs from Divya Bhan.