+

Congress announces 53 candidates in second list: Unpacking the party’s strategies for Chhattisgarh

The Congress on Wednesday released its second list of 53 candidates for the Chhattisgarh assembly polls. This comes days after the grand old party had announced 30 candidates in its first list. The party fielded sitting MLA Vikas Upadhyay from the Raipur City West assembly seat, Pankaj Sharma from Raipur Rural and Mahant Ram Sundar […]

The Congress on Wednesday released its second list of 53 candidates for the Chhattisgarh assembly polls. This comes days after the grand old party had announced 30 candidates in its first list. The party fielded sitting MLA Vikas Upadhyay from the Raipur City West assembly seat, Pankaj Sharma from Raipur Rural and Mahant Ram Sundar Das from the Raipur City South constituency. Jitin Jaiswal will contest from Jagdalpur and Shailesh Pandey from Bilaspur, the state’s ruling party announced. Sitting MLA Arun Vora has been renominated from Durg City. His father Motilal Vora was a Chief Minister of united Madhya Pradesh.

Chhattisgarh goes to polls in two phases on 7 and 17 November respectively. The counting of votes will take place on 3 December, along with the other four states that will vote in the assembly elections. The Congress is seeking to repeat its government and retain power in the state under Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. The ruling Congress declared its first list of 30 candidates for the Chhattisgarh Assembly election on 15 October. All ten Ministers—including Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, his deputy TS Singh Deo, and Assembly speaker Charan Das Mahant—have been retained, while eight sitting MLAs have been dropped. Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (CPCC) president Deepak Baij, currently the Lok Sabha MP from Bastar, will now be fielded in the Chitrakot Assembly seat. He had won the seat in the 2018 state election but vacated it a year later after winning the parliamentary seat. Former CPCC chief Mohan Markam has also retained his seat of Kondagaon in the tribal belt of Bastar that goes to polls in the first phase.

PARTY’S STRATEGIES
According to experts, the decision to retain all Cabinet Ministers despite negative reports against some of them is an attempt to show that the lists have CM Baghel’s imprint and contain any major rebellion. Despite this, at least one Minister, Guru Rudra Kumar, will have his constituency changed.

The remaining Ministers and senior leaders will contest from the same seats they won in 2018 when the Congress snagged 68 seats in the 90-member House. Further, last week, Congress general secretary in-charge of the State, Selja Kumari expressed confidence that the grand old party would repeat its government in Chhattisgarh and accused the BJP of blocking a Bill that would have ensured higher reservation to different sections of people in the State.

Addressing a press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters, Selja claimed that the Congress would cross the 75 mark in the 90-member Assembly in the upcoming election, up from the 68 it won in 2018. The party’s tally is 71 at present, as it won three byelections after the fact.

WINNABILITY AND FIRST-TIMERS
Of the eight MLAs who have been dropped, most were first-timers and found to be on a sticky wicket; party sources said that winnability was the major factor, and was determined through multiple surveys. Some sitting MLAs lost out due to poor performance despite winning by a huge margin in the last election.

In Dantewada, Devati Karma—the widow of the late Bastar stalwart Mahendra Karma, who was killed in a Maoist ambush that wiped out much of the Congress’ top brass in the State in 2013—has been replaced by her son Chavindra Mahendra Karma. Karma won the seat in a by-election necessitated by the death of BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi who was killed in a Naxal attack in 2019. Similarly, CM Baghel’s close associate Girish Dewangan will be contesting for the first time from the Rajnandgaon seat, where the BJP has fielded sitting MLA and three-time former CM Raman Singh.

While this is Dewangan’s first foray into electoral politics, he has been associated with the Congress for nearly four decades and is currently a CPCC general secretary. As chairman of the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation, his name has cropped up in the Enforcement Directorate’s probe into the alleged coal levy scam. The Congress’ first list includes four women. It has named 14 candidates for Scheduled Tribe seats and three for Scheduled Caste seats.

Tags: