Chhattisgarh polls: Raman Singh factor key for BJP victory
Raipur, Nov 12: Veteran BJP leader Ananth Kumar passed away early on Monday, November 12, the same day the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh went to its first phase of Assembly election. On the death of Kumar, who has been elected for six consecutive times to the parliament from Bangalore South constituency, the question which was being asked is that the BJP will have to find a worthy successor to the late leader in the seat which he has retained for over two decades now. The political dynamism of a posh constituency like Bangalore South will be important to be taken into account for the saffron party before it goes to a by-poll and subsequently the Lok Sabha election next year.
Contrast that to the 18 seats in the Naxal-affected regions of Chhattisgarh that went to the polls on Monday. Despite the frequent calls of "Vikas" or development, these constituencies are located in a region that are still coping with difficulties and hence have become a breeding ground for extremism. Despite its focus on development as the main poll plank, the BJP has not been able to turn around the reality in these backward constituencies even after remaining in power for 15 consecutive years now. In seats that constitute a perfect anti-thesis to a constituency like Bangalore South, what the BJP hopes to gain on December 11 when the results will be declared?
Raman Singh could be the only differentiating factor
The BJP's biggest trump card is Chief Minister Raman Singh. The incumbent, whose seat Rajnandgaon went to the polls on Monday, still remains the saffron party's most recognised face and besides his own seat, Singh is also his party's hope to do well in the five other Assembly seats in Rajnandgaon and the six Assembly segments under the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat. While the BJP has 4-2 advantage over the Congress in terms of the six Assembly segments, the Congress has an identical lead in terms of the Assembly seats from Rajnandgaon district. The BJP heavily banks on Singh to not only win his own seat but also facilitates other candidates' chances in the region.
Since elections in Chhattisgarh are more about gauging the mood against the local candidates instead of those located in New Delhi, the BJP has a challenge of beating the anti-incumbency this time. In 2013, 29 of the 37 candidates of the Congress who won in 2008, had lost which makes the BJP even more cautious (it has replaced 16 sitting MLAs this time). However, its big hope remains Singh for he is a recognised face of the party over a decade and half now while the Opposition Congress has no such local face with which the voters can identify themselves. The Grand Old Party, however, has fielded Karuna Shukla, the niece of late prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee against Singh to ensure that the CM doesn't get an easy win this time.
Given the Naxal-affected areas' backwardness, Singh's popularity lies in the fact that he has succeeded in reaching the populist schemes (like rice at Re 1 a kilo) to the people and this is one aspect where the Congress has to match the BJP. If Singh fails to produce his magic this time in Rajnandgaon, then the BJP will be in trouble but then again, the alliance between Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and the Communist Party of India could put the Congress under some serious competition for votes.