After BJP’s hat-trick of victories in the assembly elections in 2013, party entered the Lok Sabha elections 2014 in Chhattisgarh with pumped up morale under the leadership of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, while Congress hoped of reversing the performance of state elections. Along with party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Modi, Chief Minister Raman Singh took over the election campaign and BJP was able to repeat its 2009 performance winning 10 out of 11 seats. The Congress, which is occupying power of the country, was reduced to just one seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Interestingly the only seat that the BJP could not win this time is Drug a seat that the party had not lost since 1996.
Veteran politicians and heavyweights like Charandas Mahant (Union Minister)and Ajit Jogi also had to face defeat. For the first time in the state Presidential style elections were held. Modi conducted nearly half-a-dozen rallies in the state, while Chief Minister Raman Singh also held several public meetings and sought votes for the BJP. No doubt Modi wave was behind BJP’s victory but the effect of Raman factor cannot be ignored.
The Raman Factor
The number of people who voted for BJP in the name of Modi was 27 per cent in the country, whereas, in Chhattisgarh, this figure was only 10 per cent.
In the circumstance where Modi would not have been the prime ministerial candidate, the number of people who still would have voted for BJP was 48 percent in the country. In Chhattisgarh, the number of such voters was 17 percent more at 65 percent.
BJP got 10 out of 11 seats
The vote share of both the parties increased in 2014. With an increase of about 5 percent, BJP got around 50 percent of the votes, while Congress managed to get 39 percent of the vote with nearly 2 percent increase. The Congress did not get the benefit of the increased vote share in the form of seats, but it was a matter of some relief for the party.
Victory margins were huge
Chhattisgarh has come to be identified as a strong garh (fortress) of BJP. The victory of BJP was huge, margin on 5 out of 10 seats won by the party was one lakh. On two seats the margin was more than two lakh votes. While the BJP was ahead in 72 out of 90 assembly constituencies, the rival Congress could lead only in 18 assembly constituencies. The condition of Congress can be judged by the fact that only in one out of the 10 seats the party was in real competition. Tribal leader Ajit Jogi lost with the difference of 8,311 votes in Mahasamund.
The Congress state-wide vote share stood at 38.4% votes, a marginal gain of one percentage points since 2009 but down by about 2 percentage since the Vidhan Sabha election. Hence the what difference between the BJP and Congress which was less than 1 percentage points in Vidhan Sabha election widended to 10 percentage points in the Lok Sabha election in a strictly bipolar state.
BJP received support from all communities, Congress suffered from groupism
According to CSDS data, 46 percent of the upper castes, 56 percent of OBCs, 37 percent of SCs and 44 percent of STs voted for the BJP. The party received 50 percent of the female and 48 percent of the male voting population support. On the other hand, the Congress received 18 percent support of the upper caste, 37 percent of OBCs, 42 percent of SCs and 45 percent of STs. 38 percent women and 39 percent of the men voted in favor of the Congress.
Along with Modi plus Raman factor, infighting and groupism also damaged the Congress. Divisions inside the Congress into groups of Ajit Jogi and Bhupesh Baghel, caused major embarrassment and defeat to the party.
Explaining BJP’s Victory
A Pre Poll study conducted in Chhattisgarh by CSDS reveals that the satisfaction of voters with the Raman Singh ‘s government as high as 80 %. As compared to this, satisfaction with the performance of the UPA government at the center was less than 60 percent.
Not only did the BJP benefit from the popularity of Raman singh regime but it also seems to have benefited from Narendra Modi’s appeal in the state to some extent.
When people were asked to name their choice for Prime minister in an open ended question 31 percent took the name of Modi while 20 percent said Rahul Gandhi. It must be added however the Modi’s popularity in Chhattisgarh was less than the overall National average of 36 percent. On the other hand Rahul Gandhi’s popularity in the state was higher than the national average of 14%.
Another interesting finding was young voters in the state favoured the Congress more than the BJP. Over half of the respondents in the age group of 18-25 year voted for Congress as against 40% voting for BJP. Even in terms of gender Chhattisgarh defied the national pattern of voting. Whereas in greater proportion of men voted for BJP than women nationally, in Chhattisgarh it was other way around. Congress’s inability to take credit for schemes launched by the Manmohan Singh govt. coupled with the demoralization of the party work force following a third successive assembly election defeat helped the BJP sweep the state in 2014 polls.
To sum up, the assembly elections at the end of this year will be challenging for both the BJP and the Congress. The BJP faces the challenge of replicating 2014 performance. At the same time after the departure of Ajit Jogi, a diminished Congress is attempting to return to power banking on anti-incumbency.