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'Mandir had no impact in Chhattisgarh'

December 11, 2018 17:51 IST

'Amit Shah in his meeting with booth level workers had set the target at 65 seats.'
'Now people are asking if he gave this target to the BJP or Congress!'

BJP national President Amit Anilchandra Shah at an election rally in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amit Shah/Twitter

IMAGE: BJP national President Amit Anilchandra Shah at an election rally in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amit Shah/Twitter

"Wherever Modiji, Shahji and Yogiji campaigned, they never spoke about the core issues of the people of Chhattisgarh," Alok Prakash Putul, a senior journalist from Chhattisgarh, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih, discussing the reasons for the BJP's defeat, the Congress's decisive mandate and the rejection of Mandir politics.

What are the main reasons for the Congress's triumph in Chhattisgarh?

Chhattisgarh has 70% marginalised farmers. The Congress started its election campaign with the slogan 'Narva, garwa, ghurwa, baari, Chhattisgarh ki chaar chinhari' -- water sources like rivers, canals; the daily waste that comes out of a home; cattle and fields, the symbols of the state.

The Congress's masterstroke was the Rs 2,400 support price it promised for wheat and waiving farm loans.

In fact, the sale of wheat on MSP (minimum support price) which is Rs 1,750 now, had started from November 1.

But in many areas the farmers did not sell their wheat. They wanted to wait in the hope of getting a better price if the Congress came to power.

They thought they would get Rs 2,400 if the Congress came to power.

In 2013, when the Raman Singh government came to power, from the dais after he took the oath, he showed a letter he had written to (then prime minister) Manmohan Singh. The letter said the MSP of wheat should be Rs 2,100 -- but when their (the BJP-led NDA) government came to power at the Centre they did not increase it to Rs 2,100.

In Bastar, the BJP reduced the MSP of many forest produce by 56% which affected people's livelihood.

Thirdly, there was clear anti-incumbency against Raman Singh.

Another factor is that in each election the BJP used to raise the issue that 'If you vote for the Congress Jogi will be back'. But this time there was no Jogi in the Congress!

There was also this view that (Chhattisgarh's first chief minister Ajit) Jogi was working with the BJP to defeat the Congress.

Many on the ground knew the Congress would get to 62+.

 

What went wrong for Raman Singh this time? He could have set an enviable record had he won again.

He distributed mobile phones widely, but there is no employment. The farmers are asking 'You have money to distribute cell phones, but not for us.'

There is a shortage of doctors, and medicines are in short supply. Small schools have been closed.

There was an arrogance and alienation of BJP ministers.

Wherever Modiji, Shahji and Yogiji (Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath) campaigned, they never spoke about the core issues of the people of Chhattisgarh.

Before the second phase of polling, the BJP tried to correct that and turn the campaign towards development, but it was too late by then.

Raman Singh is the soft face of the BJP and had a long tenure. The party will find an appropriate role for him in view of the Lok Sabha election.

How big a setback is the Chhattisgarh defeat for the BJP?

Amit Shah in his meeting with booth level workers had set the target at 65 seats. Now people are asking if he gave this target to the BJP or Congress!

Who do you think will be the best contender for chief minister?

This question does not stand after such a big victory. The party has fought a united campaign under Bhupesh Baghel and launched a direct battle against the BJP.

In the last five years, Baghel has done padyatras covering 1,000 km. Never has this been done by a Congress leader in the state.

He has led this battle against the BJP and hence he is the top-most contender.

There is T S Singh Deo, Charandas Mahant.

Keeping the Lok Sabha polls in mind, Baghel would be the best choice for the Congress.

What do you see as the future of Ajit Jogi?

Ajit Jogi is the only mass base leader from Chhattisgarh. It may not translate into votes, but he has a grasp over the people.

One cannot take that away from him irrespective of whether he remains in power or not.

My personal view is that if you were to take Raman Singh, Bhupesh Baghel and Ajit Jogi to any town, village or kasba in Chhattisgarh, ask them to give a speech and draw a crowd, Jogi has the capability to gather five times a larger crowd (than Raman Singh and Baghel).

He will remain relevant as the third front.

What will be the biggest challenges before the Congress when it comes to power after 15 years?

The budget. The treasury is nearly empty and debt is mounting. How they will manage that will be the biggest challenge.

The Naxal problem has now reached Raman Singh's area.

What was the Modi factor in this election?

Modi-Shah campaigned many times. In the last year, Modi has come at least 8 times to the state and started three big programmes here. Amit Shah was holding meetings, so you cannot say Modi kept away.

Modi's face was smaller this time on BJP posters. The election was fought on Raman Singh's name.

Was Mandir an issue in this election?

The Mandir issue had no impact in Chhattisgarh. There have been no communal riots in this state.

Raman Singh has never played the Hindutva card. Yogi was going on about Mandir and yet the BJP lost. It proves that it is no issue and people rejected it.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com
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