With anti-incumbency weighing heavy on its head, the Bharatiya Janata Party which has been in power in Chhattisgarh since 2003 is fighting with its back to the wall in the Assembly polls slated for November. In the last election in 2013, the BJP had bagged 49 seats, the Congress 39 and the Bahujan Samaj Party one.
Intrinsically, the dice is loaded in favour of the Congress with public disenchantment running high but the BJP can count on the penchant of the Congress to put its foot in the mouth and turn seeming victory into defeat.
In a major setback to the Congress, its state working president and MLA Ramdayal Uike last week joined the ruling BJP. Uike commands considerable support among the scheduled tribes in the state.
Earlier, after secret parleys, the wily former chief minister Ajit Jogi who had defected from the Congress which he led to defeat in 2013 to form his own party the Janata Congress in 2016, tied up with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party for the elections in a surprise move which left the Congress looking vulnerable.
Mayawati’s estrangement with the Congress was a reflection of the latter’s poor handling of alliances especially at the Central level. True, Mayawati was asking for the moon and the Congress was offering just five seats in a House of 90 but a via media could have been found.
That the Congress-BSP alliance in Madhya Pradesh too has fallen through is hardly surprising. In fact, this was to be expected in view of the developments in Chhattisgarh. The Congress continues to behave high and mighty and the party leadership is cocooned in complacency.
Evidently, with this background, the BSP-Congress alliance is unlikely to come through even in the Lok Sabha elections and a huge beneficiary of this would be the BJP. Whether the tax cases against Mayawati have anything to do with her estrangement with the Congress as a sop to the BJP to go slow on the cases is a moot point.
Under the Chhattisgarh arrangement, while the BSP will contest 35 seats, the Janata Congress would try its luck from the rest. Mayawati also announced that if the coalition comes to power, Jogi would become the chief minister.
Jogi, who once was one of Sonia Gandhi’s blue-eyed boys, is anathema to the Congress today and the Congress high command cannot but be angry with the Mayawati-Jogi flirtation.
Together the two parties will seek to capture the scheduled castes and tribes vote bank with both Mayawati and Jogi claiming to be the messiah of scheduled castes. Chhattisgarh has 10 seats reserved for SCs, out of which the BJP had won nine last time and the Congress just one. So, the alliance could well damage both the Congress and the BJP.
Apart from this, 29 seats are reserved for tribals and the SC population is over 10 per cent in the other seats. But Jogi also holds some sway over the Muslim and Christian population in over a dozen constituencies in the state. All this would help eat into the Congress vote bank.
In the event of the BJP falling short of a majority, there is a fair chance that the BSP-Janata Congress alliance may strike a deal with the BJP to upstage the Congress. Of late, Jogi has been soft towards Chief Minister Raman Singh and it is rumoured that they enjoy a good equation.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to make an impact on the voters after full-swing campaigning starts and Raman Singh fully exploiting the advantage of incumbency, the tide against the BJP could well turn in the coming days.
As compared to Raman Singh, Congress state chief Bhupesh Baghel is a relative lightweight. Yet, there is no room for complacency in the BJP camp. There is no doubt that there is a degree of exasperation against the BJP government which could translate into loss of votes.