Battleground Chhattisgarh (9): Jogi Hoping To Become Another Kumaraswamy

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and Janta Congress Chhattisgarh chief Ajit Jogi have sealed a deal for the upcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh. According to the agreement, Jogi’s party will contest on 55 seats and Mayawati’s 35. The alliance has been frozen after months of speculation and talks between BSP-Congress failed. Mayawati had a week earlier threatened to go it alone if she wasn’t granted a fair share of seats.

The state has 29 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 10 for Scheduled Castes (SC). Tribals constitute 32 per cent of the state population and Dalits form 12 per cent. The alliance hopes to consolidate this sizeable SC-ST vote bank of 44 per cent and dent the prospects of both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The alliance is projecting Jogi as its chief ministerial candidate. While both leaders, Jogi and Mayawati, know that they can’t win the elections, the thrust of the alliance is on creating a hung assembly and emerge as a kingmaker.

Upper Caste Protests (Swaran Andolan) Punctured BSP-Congress Alliance

The agitation by the upper caste in the three states that go to polls by the year-end, protesting the amendment to SC-ST Act nullifying the Supreme Court order, has taken political parties by surprise. Congress strategists developed cold feet and showed reluctance to join hands with Mayawati. Any formal alliance with BSP would have alienated upper caste voters from the Congress and the party would not have been able to take advantage of the upper caste anger against the BJP. This, despite there was strong rationale for the alliance. BSP’s vote share in all three elections was higher than BJP’s margin of victory. If Congress and BSP would have contested together in 2013, they would have won the elections bagging 52 out of 90 seats.

Good News For BJP

On the face of it, this is good news for BJP. Anti-BJP votes will split between Congress and Jogi-Mayawati alliance helping the incumbent. An alliance between BSP and Congress would have posed a tougher challenge. A truly triangular contest in the state occurred in 2003 when Vidya Charan Shukla left Congress and joined Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Pawar’s party went on to bag 7 per cent vote share, more than twice the difference between BJP and Congress vote shares, denting the grand old party’s chances. BJP hopes for a repeat of 2003.

Jogi-Mayawati Aim To Spoil Chances Of Both BJP And Congress

There are 10 SC and 29 ST reserved seats. In 35 seats, the population of STs is more than 40 per cent. Historically, SC community vote has been split among BJP (42 per cent), Congress (37 per cent) and BSP (11-12 per cent). The ST community vote has been split almost equally between BJP and Congress. BSP has near to zero support among STs.

BJP currently has nine MLAs in the 10 SC-reserved seats. The alliance is likely to damage BJP prospects here. Congress currently has 18 MLAs in the ST-reserved seats. The alliance is likely to hurt Congress prospects here. While BJP’s share of seats has been on an upswing in the SC-reserved constituencies, it has witnessed an opposite trend in the ST-reserved constituencies.

The alliance hopes to consolidate the vote of others. Others (small parties and independents) have historically had a little over 20 per cent vote share in SC-ST seats. The alliance will also target to get a portion of the ‘NOTA’ voters on its side playing the tribal asmita card. The state, dominated by tribals, has never seen a tribal chief minister after Jogi.

Jogi Hopes To Repeat A Karnataka

Jogi hopes to win five-10 seats and create a hung assembly situation, and emerge as a kingmaker. Like in Karnataka, he thinks he will be able to force Congress to back him then to install a non-BJP government in the state. Jogi enjoys good popularity among the voters in Chhattisgarh. In some surveys (IBC, ABP), he is the second-most favoured candidate to be the chief minister in the state after Raman Singh. He has good clout among the STs, as he hails from the Satnami Dalit Samaj, which has considerable influence on 20 seats in the state.

But Significant Challenges Remain

In any alliance, transferability of votes is a key issue. The seamless transfer of votes between BSP and Jogi Congress will determine the success of this alliance. Further, BSP has lost support since the last elections. It failed to open its account in Lok Sabha polls and fared poorly in Uttar Pradesh elections. Jogi’s controversial image and allegations of corruption could also harm the prospects of this alliance.

In the end it all boils down to the seat-wise impact which the alliance could have. This will get clear once the candidates of all parties are announced. A nail-biting finish is on the anvil in the state.

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This article was first published in The Swarajya.


Battleground Chhattisgarh (8): Factors which will determine who wins 2018 (Part 1)

A fascinating contest is on in Chhattisgarh, while Congress is aiming to cash in on anti-incumbency and make a comeback, BJP is hoping to consolidate its position further. Elections are not won or lost basis one factor but a host of factors. In two posts we will try to cover the issues which are expected to dominate the state elections.

  1. Social Engineering

Like most states in India, Chhattisgarh is not untouched by caste-based politics. Nearly one third of the state’s population are Schedule Tribes, while a further 12 percent are Schedule Caste. OBCs account for 41 percent, upper caste 9%, Muslims 2% and Others 4%. The Chhattisgarh assembly has 90 assembly seats, of which 29 are reserved for STs and 10 for SCs. The upper caste and OBCs have traditionally backed the BJP. While the ST community vote is equally divided between the Congress and BJP, SC community vote between Congress, BJP and BSP. While Congress won 18 out of 29 ST reserved seats in 2013, BJP swept the SC reserved seats bagging 9 out of 10 seats. The entry of Jogi has complicated the matter as he has significant influence over the Satnami Dalit community (stronghold of BJP) and tribals (stronghold of Congress). All the parties are attempting to create the perfect caste combination in each seat to sail them through. Strangely there is not much impact of the agitation by swarnas in the state against the centre’s amendment to the SC-ST Act. While the forward caste doesn’t play a key role in determining who wins the elections because of their small population, almost half of the cabinet positions are occupied by them.


Caste wise break up (Source: CSDS Reports,


  1. Leadership Ratings

The BJP is hoping to encash the popularity of Chief Minister Raman Singh and his popular schemes in the state assembly elections this time and top it up the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even in ABP-C Voter survey which predicts a Congress win, Raman Singh leads the pack with 34% respondents wanting to see him as the next CM, Ajit Jogi is ranked second with 17%. We have seen lately in state polls, party whose CM candidate leads the popularity ratings, normally goes on to win the elections. The troublesome part for Congress is that its leaders Baghel and Singh Deo are lagging even behind Ajit Jogi. In India Today-Axis MyIndia Political Stock Exchange (PSE) too, Raman Singh is way ahead of his rivals 41% versus 21% of Bhupesh Baghel. Raman factor played a crucial role in 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well. Modi factor was the least visible in the state with only 10% BJP supporters voting for the party because he was the PM candidate, national average was 27%. Is it still that strong, or does he need significant pushing from Modi, remains to be seen! Modi leads the popularity ratings with 59% want to see him as next PM for another term while 34% support Rahul Gandhi for the top post.


Raman Factor vs Modi Factor



  1. Mahagathbandhan

The elections in Chhattisgarh have always witnessed a nail-biting finish. The vote share gap between BJP and Congress was a meagre 0.7% in 2013. BSP has a decent presence in the state with an average vote share of 5% and 12% support of SCs. It is for the precise reason that Congress is wooing Mayawati’s BSP to forge an alliance in the state. If the BSP and Congress would have contested together then the electoral fortunes would have been different in 2013, with the alliance winning by bagging 52 out of 90 seats. Out of the 10 ST seats, BJP and alliance would have won 5 each. Mayawati’s strength is her ability to transfer votes to the alliance partner. The talks have not yet been finalized as Mayawati is demanding for a package deal in the three states which go to polls at the end of the year and next year Lok Sabha polls. Ajit Jogi is also eager to form an alliance with BSP. BSP is in hot demand in the state.


  1. Factionalism in both parties

Elections in Chhattisgarh have traditionally been a two-horse race between the Congress and BJP. Congress is divided into various factions and sub-factions in the state. Bhupesh Singh Baghel, T.S. Singh Deo and Charan Das Mahant are leading prominent factions. Due to infighting the party has not declared a CM candidate which could prove to be risky in a Presidential elections format. Ajit Jogi leaving the Congress and forming his own party was a result of long drawn battle in the party. He remains the most popular Congress face still. Rahul Gandhi is expected to take up the leadership mantle and lead the party in the polls through yatras and rallies. In my opinion, his focus could be more on this state compared to MP and Rajasthan.


  1. Communication strategy of parties

It is widely acknowledged that while BJP has a sizeable and strong organization in the state, Congress is bereft of such cadre presence. Baghel and Singh Deo are trying to revive the party structure at the block and at the mandal level. In line with BJP’s panna pramukh, Congress is also creating its army of booth managers. Both parties have created hundreds of watsapp groups to disseminate their political communication. Raman Singh has started a state-wide Atal Vikas Yatra covering all constituencies in a mass contact program to seek votes for a fourth consecutive term. BJP has laid down a plan for ‘Nava Chhattisgarh 2025’ and prepared an ‘Atal Drishti Patra’. The citizens of the state can provide their ideas and suggestions on the document in what is seen as a participatory governance outreach by Raman Singh. The Congress is countering this with in a unique way through T-shirts. The party has printed and released more than 1 lakh T-shirts with the slogan ‘Udd Gayi Vikas Ki Chidiya’ taking a jibe at the state BJP government.


What are Opinion Polls saying?

ABP-C Voter opinion poll predicts a Congress win with 54 out of 90 seats, while India Today-Axis predicts a BJP win, 50% respondents satisfied with the performance of state government. Public prediction platform Crowdwisdom predicts a hung assembly with BJP 42, Congress 41, Jogi Congress 5 and BSP 2 seats.


To sum up, a complex interplay of many factors will determine who wins this the prestigious Chhattisgarh election.


With inputs from Khushboo Kumari.





Battleground Chhattisgarh (7): Local Level Anti-Incumbency Will Determine The Outcome

Chhattisgarh elections space is heating up. Dr Raman Singh’s first leg of Vikas Yatra covering 55 constituencies is over and the second leg can start anytime now, after being rechristened as Atal Vikas Yatra. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has already sounded the poll bugle in the state while inaugurating the new party office, earlier this month, where he said that the people of the state have made up their mind to dislodge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Mayawati is exploring options of forming an alliance with Congress at the same time keeping channels open with Ajit Jogi.

Results show continuity

The results of the last three polls since the formation of the state depict continuity. BJP’s seat tally has been constant at 49-50 and Congress at 37-39. While vote share gap between the two main parties has witnessed a reduction from 2.6 per cent in 2003 to 0.7 per cent in 2013, the seat tally indicates a level of stability in the results.



However, significant churning takes place

Although overall results have broadly been the same in the last three elections, a lot of seats have changed hands.

2008 Vs 2003

In 2008, after delimitation exercise 66 seats remain unchanged, while 24 new seats were created. BJP had won 35 of these 66 seats in 2003 but could retain only 19 of these in 2008 (54 per cent). Congress had won 29 of these 66 seats but could retain only 12 (41 per cent). On an overall basis 53 per cent seats changed hands, where people voted out the incumbent and chose another party candidate.


2013 Vs 2008

In 2013, BJP could retain only 24 out of 50 seats won in 2008 (48 per cent), while Congress could retain only 12 out of 38 won in 2008 (32 per cent). On an overall basis approximately 60 per cent of seats changed hands. This is a big number.


Local anti-incumbency at play

This exhibits significant local anti-incumbency against Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) at play in each election. Normally, seat level anti-incumbency harms the party in government as it has more MLAs.

However, Congress has been unable to overthrow the BJP government because its retention ratio has been lower than the Congress, 41 per cent Vs 54 per cent in 2008 and 32 per cent Vs 48 per cent in 2013. This signifies people’s anger against sitting MLAs of Congress is more than sitting MLAs of BJP. This also ties in with an IBC survey, which says that 56 per cent of people are not satisfied with their MLAs in the state.



Raman Singh’s strategy has worked

Before 2013 elections, Raman Singh knew well that local anti-incumbency has played a role in every election since 2003. He was aware that people are unhappy with some of his MLAs and that’s why he appealed to the public to vote for him and not the candidate. This formula worked, and many candidates also succeed in winning while there were clear doubts about their victory. In a way, the presidential elections style adopted by Raman Singh worked for the BJP.

Urban/semi-urban/industrialised centres show tendency to vote out current MLAs

Out of the 52 seats, which changed hands in 2013, 38 seats belong to the Bilaspur, Durg and Raipur regions and 14 to the tribal regions of Bastar and Ambikapur. Bastar and Ambikapur are predominantly tribal regions of the state and account for 26 seats. Bilaspur, Durg and Raipur account for the remaining 64 seats. This implies there is a higher propensity among non-tribal areas to vote out the incumbent MLA (60 per cent seats witness change of party) compared to tribal areas (53 per cent).

Congress needs to focus on localised campaign

This leads to the conclusion that Congress should focus on a localised campaign, prepare a manifesto for all 90 seats, create a ‘charge-sheet’ document against all sitting MLAs of BJP, if it wants to win the elections. If it attempts a presidential style contest, it is bound to lose as it doesn’t have any leader to match Raman Singh’s charisma in the state. Even a Raman Singh Vs Rahul Gandhi contest won’t help Congress. It needs to exploit the local level anti-incumbency.

Battleground Chhattisgarh (6) : Caste rules the roost and plays a decisive role

Since the independence of India, the world’s largest democratic country has been voting mostly on the basis of caste. People have always liked to see members from their caste, community as their leaders. Chhattisgarh, which is facing the problem of Naxalism, is also not untouched from caste politics. This is also confirmed by CSDS survey reports. According to this report, 55 percent of the state’s voters like to vote for their community leaders.

Chhattisgarh, a higher OBC Populated State


Chhattisgarh has 41 per cent OBC, 32 per cent ST, 12 per cent SC, 9 per cent general category, 4 per cent others and 2 per cent Muslim population. In such a situation, OBC and SC-ST community play the role of king maker during the elections. 

Tribals (ST) are one of the biggest community in the state comprising over 30% of total population. As many as 29 of the 90 assembly seats and 4 of the 11 Lok Sabha seats are reserved for them. A majority of them are concentrated in South and North Chhattisgarh of Bastar and Sarguja (Ambikapur). The vote of the tribals is split equally between the Congress and the BJP. Polarization of the tribals is hardly seen in the state that has not had any tribal Chief Minister. Except a few like Mahendra Karma there has not been any major tribal leader and even his influence was limited to Bastar.

The most powerful and politically aware SC sub-caste in Chhattisgarh is Satnami. Mostly concentrated in Central plain and dominating 20 odd assembly seats.

Satnamis were traditional supporters of the Congress but the BJP played a coup in the last assembly elections. It reportedly fronted up Satnami Sena, a political party comprising community priests just before the polls and clinched 9 of the 10 SC seats in assembly. In Lok Sabha the community can influence the outcome in at least three-four seats.

The most powerful OBC sub-caste is Sahu. Spread across the Central plains and known to vote in large chunks, they are a deciding factor in over 20 assembly seats. 

A few years ago heavyweight BJP dissident late Tarachand Sahu left the party and formed Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch, an outfit of Sahu community. The Manch led by Tarachand’s son Deepak, recently merged with the parent party. The two most famous Sahus of Chhattisgarh, BJP’s Chandrashekhar Sahu and Congress party’s Dhanendra Sahu have been contesting and alternatively winning assembly elections in Abhanpur constituency for the last 7 terms. Of the 51 unreserved assembly seats, 9 have Sahu MLAs at present.

Caste Pattern Voting

In the last three elections:

  • BJP got an average of 45 percent support, while Congress 22 percent support from upper caste.

  • From OBCs, BJP got 55 per cent support on an average, while Congress got 35 percent.

  • SC community voted on average 42% for the BJP and 37% for the Congress. BSP also got decent support with 9 to 14 percent votes.

  • While 45 per cent of STs supported the Congress, 44 per cent, voted in favor of the BJP.

Thakur CM in the state of OBCs and Tribals

Chhattisgarh became a separate state after the partition of Madhya Pradesh in 2000. Tribal leader Ajit Jogi became the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. The current Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh belongs to the Rajput community and has been the CM for last three terms. However, it can not be said on this basis that caste has no influence in the politics of Chhattisgarh.

Social Engineering

The second most popular leader of the state, Ajit Jogi, has left Congress and formed his own party by the name of Chhattisgarh Janata Congress.

Jogi’s departure could weaken Congress’s support base of STs and Satnamis. After Jogi’s departure, Congress is contemplating options to compensate for the loss of ST votes. Attempts are being made to form an alliance with the BSP to make up for the loss after Jogi’s departure.

Seeing the electoral past and the current political scenario of the state, it can be easily said that the elections will not be easy for both the BJP and the Congress. In the distribution of tickets, political parties will take the caste factor into account. It would not be wrong to say that the role of social engineering will be important in the assembly elections to be held by the end of the year.



Battleground Chhattisgarh (5): Raman + Modi factor swayed voters in 2014

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. 


Battleground Chhattisgarh (4):BJP recorded 3rd consecutive victory under Raman Singh’s leadership

Adventure like snake-ladder, Raman Singh emerges victorious in a nail biting finish

Chhattisgarh assembly elections have always been close. The 2013 elections were no different. BJP won 49 out of 90 seats but the margin of victory was less than 1%. Luckily, this difference in vote share didn’t translate into seats.

The vote share gap between Congress and BJP has been consistently reducing from 2.6% in 2003 to 1.7 % in 2008 to 0.7% in 2013. The seat share gap has also declined form 13 in 2003 to 10 in 2013. BSP vote share has been 

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


This formula worked

Raman Singh knew well that local anti incumbency has played a role in every election since 2013. He was aware that people are unhappy with some of his MLAs and that’s why he appealed to the public to vote for him (Raman Singh) and not the candidate. 

This formula worked and many candidates also succeed in winning while there were clear doubts about their victory. In a way the Presidential Elections style adopted by Raman Singh worked for BJP.

Broken myth of Bastar

It is said that the keys to power in Chattisgarh lies in Bastar. This myth was also broken down due to Raman Singh’s magisc. In Bastar BJP won only 4 out of 12 seats but still succeeded in forming the government, while Congress which won 8 out of 12 seats was forced to sit in opposition again.

Perhaps Congress paid too much attention on this trend and concentrated a lot on this region while ignoring others. On the other hand Raman Singh paid equal attention to every nook and corner of the state.

These were also some big reason

Whenever it is talked about Raman Singh’s Victory, his good work in the field of development, social welfare schemes and infrastructure are credited. Carrying out development work in the state like Chhattisgarh which is affected by maoist violence and dominated  by tribals is not easy.

Magic of Raman Singh on urban seats

BJP did well on the urban seats. The vote share of the Congress party also increased, but BJP dented into vote bank of BSP and others to compensate for it. The polls witnessed record turnout of more than 75%. BJP’s victory was comprehensive as the party won 23 seats with more than 10 thousand votes. BJP’s performance in Central Chhattisgarh was spectacular as it won 28 out of 43 seats. BSP’s vote share declined on SC reserved seats from 14.4% in 2008 to 8.9% in 2013, which benefited the BJP as it won 9 out of 10 reserved seats.

The vote share gap in 2013 was less than 1%. Its very difficult to predict which way the wind will blow in 2018. Yeh jo public hai yeh sab jaanti hai! Till then wait and watch.

Battleground Chhattisgarh (3): Voters prefer stability over change

On 25th August, 2000 after the approval of the Reorganization Act 2000 by the President of India, Chhattisgarh came into existence as a separate state. It was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha came in existence on 1st November, 2000 and has 90 elected members. At the time of the creation of the state, Congress had 62 out of 90 MLAs, by virtue of its win in the 1998 elections of Madhya Pradesh. It was called upon to form the government and Ajit Jogi became the first CM of the state.

The first assembly elections of the state were held in 2003. The corruption scandals of Jogi and his son alienated the traditional Congress voter to such an extent that the party was routed. The split in the party with senior leader Vidya Charan Shukla leaving and joining NCP didn’t help Congress. Its tally declined from 62 to 37 while BJP seized power by bagging 50 seats. BSP got 2 and NCP 1 seat. BJP recorded 39.3% vote share while Congress ended up with 36.7%. Raman Singh was elected as a chief minister from BJP. NCP severely dented Congress party’s prospects bagging 7% vote share, higher than the gap of 3% between Congress and BJP.

In 2008, BJP was re-elected, riding on popularity of Raman Singh and development work done by the government. It emerged victorious in 50 seats while Congress could bag only 38. A status quo situation.

Congress embarked on its campaign with the plank of anti-incumbency but forgot to factor in that there is a perceptible link between voter choice and satisfaction with performance. (CSDS) While it tied up with NCP and threatened to oust Raman but factionalism hurt Congress.

In 2013 while Congress was aiming to exploit anti incumbency, BJP recorded its straight third win riding on Modi as well as Raman factor. It was a pretty close shave for the BJP, the vote share gap between BJP and Congress was just 0.7%. Raman Singh registered a hattrick as the chief minister of the state shattering the hope of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi of the Congress who was hopeful of winning the election.

Today Raman Singh holds the record for the longest serving Chief Minister of BJP. His government’s image among the voters as development oriented and his resolve to fight against the red terror has enabled it to fight anti-incumbency. 2018 is going to be an exciting contest, with Ajit Jogi’s party also in the fray. While Congress is trying for an alliance with BSP, BJP hopes split of votes among opposition will sail it through.

Battleground Chhattisgarh (2): BJP hopes to scrape through in a triangular contest

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).


2008 2013
BJP Vote Share


40.3% 42.30%
INC Vote Share


38.6% 41.60%


1.7% 0.7%

BSP Vote Share

4.4% 6.1%


BJP Seat Tally

50 50


INC Seat Tally

37 38



13 12



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)


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.


Battleground Chhattisgarh (1) – Has Raman Singh Silently Worked His Way To A Fourth Term As Chief Minister?

As per a recent opinion poll by IBC24, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) is set to retain Chhattisgarh under the leadership of Dr Raman Singh by bagging 48 seats. Congress is expected to win 34, while Ajit Jogi’s Congress, 5 seats. While Congress is claiming to overthrow the BJP government, it looks ill prepared to do so.

Popularity ratings of leaders

The Chief Minister remains the most popular leader with 44 per cent popularity ratings. In recent history, leadership ratings have been a key determinant of election results across states.

The party whose leader gets the highest votes for ‘who is best suited to be CM’ normally goes on to win the elections. In Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh was leading the pack. In 2016, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa won in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively. In Delhi, Kejriwal led-Aam Aadmi Party trounced the BJP in 2015, In Bihar, Nitish was more popular than even Modi.

The Congress doesn’t have a leader of the stature of Raman Singh. Even on a combined basis, Congress leaders T S Singh Deo and Bhupesh Baghel, enjoy the support of only 30 per cent of voters, one-third less than Raman Singh.

Raman Singh is the tallest leader of the BJP in the state. Even during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Modi factor was least visible in Chhattisgarh. Where across India 27 per cent public would not have voted for BJP had Modi not been the PM candidate, in the state, the number was just 10 per cent.


Development Track Record

The Congress party moved a no-confidence motion against the Raman Singh government in December 2017 which was defeated by a count of 48-38 votes. The Congress came out with a 168 point charge-sheet which seemed to, in fact, highlight the party’s ignorance about the issues faced by the people of the state and how it is out of sync with the realities.

Congress has alleged that there is an undeclared financial crisis in the state. Independent rating agency CRISIL rated 16 big states of India on 3 parameters of gross domestic product (GDP) growth, inflation and fiscal position for the five year period from 2013-2017. Chhattisgarh has attained the fourth rank overall only below Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The state has recorded an average GDP growth of 7.2 per cent which is higher than the all India GDP growth of 6.9 per cent. With the lowest debt to GDP ratio of around 16 per cent and a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 3 per cent, the state tops the charts in terms of fiscal performance.

Chhattisgarh has been constantly running a revenue account surplus and has significantly improved its development expenditure from 18 per cent in fiscal year (FY) 2013 to around 33 per cent in FY 2017. The per capita income of the state has increased from Rs 52,689 in FY 2013 to Rs 78,001 in FY 2017.

The state has recorded the second highest growth in aggregate gross value added (GVA) of labour intensive sectors – 10.6 per cent versus the all India growth of 7.1 per cent. The share of manufacturing in state’s total GVA has increased from 16.4 per cent in FY 2012 to 22.6 per cent in FY 2016, hinting faster industrialisation. Chhattisgarh is among the top-performing states in manufacturing GVA growth as well as GVA growth of trade, transportation and communication services.

Triangular Contest

The infighting within the Congress had led to Ajit Jogi leaving the party and forming his own Janata Congress Chhattisgarh. Jogi is still the tallest Congress leader, evident from his ratings, higher than that of both Sing Deo and Baghel. The triangular contest is likely to benefit the BJP. Ajit Jogi is expected to wean away a section of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) votes of the Congress thus making a dent in its core vote bank. There are 29 reserved seats for scheduled tribes in the assembly and the Congress won majority of these seats (18) in the 2013 elections. There are 35 seats where the ST population is greater than 40 per cent. Out of these, the Congress won 22 and the BJP 13 in 2013 polls.

STs account for 32 per cent of population in Chhattisgarh and will play a key role in deciding who wins the elections. The ST-dominated seats are the only ones where the Congress received more vote share than the BJP. A loss of votes here would seriously jeopardise the Congress party’s chances in the 2018 state polls. The anti-incumbency votes will split between the Congress and Jogi Congress helping the BJP.

To conclude, the Congress is harping on non-issues highlighting they are out of touch with the real situation on the ground. That is the reason why they have not been able to provide a viable alternative to the Raman Singh government. Additionally, the infighting among the top leaders of the state and the exit of Ajit Jogi indicates that Raman Singh is a favourite to return as chief minister of the state for the fourth consecutive time, unless Congress pulls up its socks and sorts out its problems.


State Elections 2018: Is Opinion Poll of ABP and C-Voter reliable?


Source: Prashant Bhushan’s Tweet

Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram are going to hold assembly elections by the end of the year. News channel ABP and C Voter have come up with a poll for three states. As per this poll, in all these states, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, BJP is likely to lose.

The track record of ABP and C-Voter opinion polls is not good which raises questions over the reliability of this survey. The first ABP poll for UP in March 2016 showed BSP as the single largest party (SLP) in a hung assembly. Even the last ABP opinion poll in January 2017 showed SP-Congress alliance as SLP with just a few seats short of majority.  On the other hand C-Voter has a better exit poll record than opinion polls. It predicted AAP victory in Punjab in March 2016 a year before polls and maintained its call in January 2017.

So surveys can go wrong, that too surveys conducted significantly before the actual voting dates. To be fair to the survey, they have sampled all Lok Sabha seats of the state, total sample size 28,000.

Dichotomy / Contradiction in Opinion Poll

On one side, the poll claims that Congress government will be installed in all the three states, on the other hand, in two states, BJP’s current Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh are public’s first choice for the post of chief minister.

  • In Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot of Congress is the front runner for CM’s post with 41 per cent while Sachin Pilot is the choice of 18 per cent. If 59 per cent public wants to see Chief Minister from Congress, it’s obvious that Congress is likely to win. Even the trend in the state, no party has returned to power since 1998, favours Congress.
  • In Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh leads the pack with 34 percent, Ajit Jogi is the choice of 17 percent and Bhupesh Baghel of 9 per cent public. However, in the survey, BJP is projected to get 39 percent vote share while Congress 40 percent.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is the choice of 42 percent of the people. Whereas, the rival Congress’s Jyotiraditya Sindhya and Kamal Nath are second and third choice with 30 percent and 7 percent votes. Even if you add both the leaders from Congress party then also their aggregate leadership rating is only 37 percent, 5 percent short of Chouhan. However, BJP is projected to get 40 percent vote share while Congress 42 percent. How is this possible?

In the recent past, we have seen that the party whose candidate leads the Chief Minister race, normally ends up winning the elections. Vijay Rupani was leading the charts, BJP won in Gujarat. Amarinder Singh was leading the pack in Punjab, Congress won. Kejriwal and Nitish were ahead of their BJP rivals in the state elections, BJP had to face humiliating defeat. 

Further the gap between the two parties in MP and Chhattisgarh is 1%-2% indicating its a tough call. The margin of error in such polls generally is 1% -3%. which means that the results can turn upside down. We will need to wait for more such surveys to see if a consensus emerges, however I can bet, different surveys will show different winners. Stay tuned…

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