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A pre-poll analysis of Congress and BJP’s chances in CHHATTISGARH

The tenure of the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly is scheduled to end on 3 January 2024. The previous assembly elections were held in November 2018. After the election, the Indian National Congress formed the state government, with Bhupesh Baghel becoming Chief Minister. The 2023 Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held next month in two […]

The tenure of the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly is scheduled to end on 3 January 2024. The previous assembly elections were held in November 2018. After the election, the Indian National Congress formed the state government, with Bhupesh Baghel becoming Chief Minister. The 2023 Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held next month in two phases—on 7 and 17 November—to elect all 90 members of the state’s assembly.

The two major parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have already deployed their battery of workers and are conducting meticulous meetings in respective divisions to spread their message of governance among voters across the state. Winning the voters’ faith will be a daunting task for either of the political parties.

Farmers and their issues play a determining role in Chhattisgarh politics. With 70% of the state’s population involved in agriculture and allied activities, the state statistically has nearly 37.46 lakh farmers, of which around 80 per cent are small and marginal.

In 2018, the Congress’ poll promise for a farm loan waiver and an increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy from `2,100 to `2,500 was a game changer. Further, Chief Minister Baghel’s announcement of buying paddy at `2,640 per quintal in 2022 has hugely worked in the favour of the government. As per the highly placed sources, the govt is mulling increasing the figure to `2,800, to woo farmers ahead of the upcoming elections. Another issue that will have its bearing in 2023 is unemployment.

Despite a lowered unemployment rate (0.1%) in the country, the youth of Chhattisgarh, who approximately form 25% of the total population, are still grappling with the issue. However, a last-minute announcement, in connection with an unemployment allowance of `2,500 and disbursement of two instalments to 10 lakh youth, just ahead of the elections, has certainly instilled hopes in the minds of the unemployed youth. However, the announcement seemed unable to garner the anticipated support of the youth, for the grand old party.

In this regard, an important factor that deserves special mentioning was the long-standing tussle between the ruling party and the former governor, Anusuiya Uikey, over the reservation. The passing of three bills on 3 December 2022, that provided a reservation in government jobs and admissions in educational institutions (32 per cent quota to the Scheduled Tribe, 27% to Other Backward Classes (OBC), 13% to Scheduled Caste (SC) and 4% to the Economically Weaker Sections), in proportion to population of different categories, took the overall reservation in the state to 76%.

The increase in capping complicated the issue for it to be resolved later, with the intervention of the Apex court, which decided to temporarily restore the 58% reservation, so that the halted employment opportunities could ultimately reach the doorsteps of the youth.

At the same time, there is perceptible anger among people against the ruling Congress over alleged scams in the Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission and liquor trade. Alleged differences among frontline Congress leaders appear to have disappeared at the top, but tension still persists at the bottom level. The BJP feels that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Sarva Adivasi Samaj candidates will eat into the support base of Congress.

Further, the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the key for the party in any election in the country. After the 2018 debacle, the BJP made an impressive comeback by capturing nine out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, riding high on the strong image of PM Modi.

In an expected move, the saffron party has promoted a second line of leadership and is all set to fight the elections under collective leadership without projecting three-time CM Raman Singh as the party’s face. Poll pundits are seeing this as an end of the Raman Singh era in the tribal-dominated state.

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