The Congress registered a landslide victory in 2018 Chhattisgarh assembly elections because of the “strong” anti-incumbency against the Bharatiya Janata Party that had ruled the state for 15 years between 2003 and 2018.
The Congress currently holds 71 seats in the 90-member state assembly and is aiming to win 75 seats in the upcoming elections riding on the Bhupesh Baghel-led government's pro-farmers, pro-tribals and pro-poor schemes.
The ruling party is also eyeing to cash in on CM Baghel's popularity as he has a significant hold over the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and rural voters.
Here is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh.
• Implementation of several welfare schemes, including Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay and Godhan Nyay Yojana, catering to farmers and rural population, unemployment allowance and procurement of millets and various forest produce at support price.
• CM Baghel has developed his image as a son of the soil, enhancing his popularity in the native population. He has a significant hold over the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and rural voters.
•In the last five years, the party has strengthened its organisational set-up till the booth level. Around 3 lakh youths associated with the Rajiv Yuva Mitan Club scheme could help the party in mobilising voters in its favour. This scheme is aimed at connecting young people of the state with creative works, developing leadership skills and making them aware of their social responsibilities.
• The Congress won bypolls held to five assembly seats in Chhattisgarh after 2018, consolidating its position in the state.
•There is factionalism and infighting in the grand old party's state unit. In the last five years, CM Baghel's bete noire in the party T S Singh Deo raised a banner of revolt multiple times. Finally, the party had to placate him by appointing him as the deputy chief minister earlier this year. Another leader Mohan Markam, a former state Congress president, was also not on good terms with Baghel. But he was inducted into the state cabinet a few months back. Despite all this, the internal bickering is far from over.
•The government is facing allegations of corruption in coal transportation, liquor sale, District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund utilisation and Public Service Commission recruitment in the state.
• Some incidents of communal violence and clashes over religious conversion occurred in the state during the present regime, giving an opportunity to the opposition BJP to build a narrative against the Congress of being anti-Hindu.
• The BJP has failed to mount an effective attack on the Congress in the last nearly five years.
• Leadership issue in the BJP: After the 2018 assembly polls, the BJP has changed its state chief thrice and also changed its leader of opposition in the state assembly last year. The saffron party has also virtually sidelined Raman Singh, whose last tenure as CM between 2013 and 2018 was rocked by alleged civil supplies scam and chit fund scam.
The Congress has been continuously targeting the BJP, claiming its central leadership does not have faith in the party's frontline leaders in the state.
• Weak BJP district units that failed to counter Congress' narrative against the BJP-led Centre at the local level.
•Unfulfilled promises, including liquor ban and regularisation of contractual employees, may attract the wrath of people in various constituencies.
•The 'Modi factor' that gives the BJP an edge over rival parties.
•Entry of the Aam Aadmi Party and Sarwa Adivasi Samaj (an umbrella body of tribal organisations) into the elections may damage the vote bank of the Congress.
•Of the 68 Congress MLAs who were elected in 2018, a total of 35 were first timers and most of them are now facing opposition from the public over their performance.