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BJP’s victory script in Chhattisgarh: 47 new faces, graft a key plank & Baghel its target | Political Pulse News

THE BJP wrested Chhattisgarh back from the Congress with the results Sunday showing it won 54 seats in the 90-member Assembly.

Contrary to outcomes predicted by exit polls, and a confident Bhupesh Baghel leading the Congress charge as the Chief Minister of the state, BJP’s tally more than tripled from just 15 in 2018. Besides organisation and relentless attack on Baghel over corruption charges, what helped the BJP mop up its biggest ever tally is the introduction of new or fresh candidates in as many as 47 constituencies.

The tally of Congress, which had won 68 of the total 90 seats in 2018, almost halved to 35. The Gondvana Gantantra Party got a maiden seat with its founder Hari Singh Markam’s son Tuleshwar edging out his nearest rival by 714 votes and winning the Pali-Tanakhar seat, a constituency that has always been with the Congress since 2003.

Baghel fought the elections on three planks: i) welfare politics, spending as much as Rs 1.75 lakh crore on schemes for various stakeholders, ii) soft-Hindutva, having planned the Ram Van Gaman Path i.e., the path the Ram followed during his exile, and iii) invoking the regional Chhattisgarhiya pride.

But he had to contend with a string of corruption allegations on transportation of coal and liquor excise, with the Directorate of Enforcement raiding different locations of people close to him, summoning his advisors and booking and arresting some of them. He also faced questions over non-implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna and resentment over non-regularisation of contractual employees. Conversion among tribals was another issue over which the BJP mounted pressure on him.

Festive offer

Baghel conceded defeat later in the day, and submitted his resignation to the Raj Bhawan. “The people’s mandate has always been paramount. There is satisfaction that in the last five years, I have fulfilled every promise made to you and served the state to the best of my ability. The expectations and aspirations of the people are high, and I respect their wisdom,” he said on social media platform, X.

The BJP’s campaign relied heavily on the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had addressed nine public rallies in Chhattisgarh this year, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah made several visits and addressed public rallies. The duo continuously levelled charges of corruption against Baghel.

While the BJP did not have a chief ministerial face in the state, Amit Shah appealed to the public to vote for Modi. The voting pattern in the state showed that not only did the BJP cover up the huge gap of 10.1 per cent margin in the 2018 elections, its vote share rose from 32.97 per cent in 2018 to 46.27 per cent this time. The ruling Congress’s vote share dropped from 43.04 per cent to 42.23 per cent.

Political analysts said the traditional votes of the BJP that moved to Congress following strong 15-year anti-incumbency in 2018 returned to the saffron party in 2023.

Voting in the tribal Surguja region also came as a jolt to the Congress — the party lost all 14 seats won in 2018 including Ambikapur where Deputy Chief Minister T S Singh Deo lost to BJP’s Rajesh Agrawal by just 94 votes. Deo was miffed over not getting the Chief Minister’s post, had publicly expressed displeasure and even said earlier this year he may not contest the elections. He, however, changed his mind subsequently.

In Kawardha, the Hindutva politics of the BJP trounced the soft-Hindutva stand of Baghel as minister and four-time MLA Mohammad Akbar Bhai who won by a record margin of over 59,000 votes in 2018 lost by 39,592 votes against BJP’s Vijay Sharma. Sharma was a prime accused in the communal violence in 2021. The Hindutva politics also worked in Saja where a farmer Ishwar Sahu whose son was killed in communal violence earlier this year defeated seven time MLA and minister Ravindra Choubey.

Besides tribal votes, the Sahu community which accounts for a large chunk of Other Backward Class (OBC) votes is said to have swung towards BJP, helping the party win comfortably in the three divisions of Bilaspur, Durg and Raipur.

Another factor that worked for BJP is its choice of MLA candidates. Besides introducing new MLA candidates in 47 constituencies, it fielded several former ministers like Ram Vichar Netam, Vishnu Deo Sai and four Lok Sabha members. Of the four LS members, except for Vijay Baghel who was pitted against Chief Minister Baghel, the other three won.

The Janta Congress Chhattisgarh-Jogi (JCC-J) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance which won seven seats in 2018 was white-washed this election.

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