BJP faces voter fa­tigue chal­lenge af­ter 15-year rule

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - Nation - Au­rangzeb Naqsh­bandi au­rangzeb.naqsh­bandi@hin­dus­tan­times.com

RAIPUR: De­vel­op­ment may be the poll cry for the rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Ch­hat­tis­garh but the chal­lenge it faces is to beat the voter fa­tigue that ap­pears to have set in af­ter 15 years of un­in­ter­rupted rule in the tribal-dom­i­nated state.

Aware of this, the BJP is de­vis­ing a strat­egy to beat anti-in­cum­bency. Drop­ping a sub­stan­tial num­ber of sit­ting leg­is­la­tors is part of the plan.

Party strate­gists ar­gue that anti-in­cum­bency is more against sit­ting leg­is­la­tors but “con­sid­er­able good­will” ex­ists for the gov­ern­ment and chief min­is­ter Ra­man Singh.

“Yes, there is anti-in­cum­bency against some sit­ting leg­is­la­tors but that can be coun­tered by re­plac­ing them with fresh faces. There is none against the chief min­is­ter or the gov­ern­ment,” a se­nior BJP leader said on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

In 2013, five BJP min­is­ters had lost the as­sem­bly elec­tions.

NO ANTI-IN­CUM­BENCY OR OVER­CON­FI­DENCE?

Will this over­con­fi­dence hurt the party in the year-end elec­tions? Ch­hat­tis­garh BJP chief Dharam­lal Kaushik in­sisted that while the party is “cer­tain” to win a fourth term, there is no scope for over­con­fi­dence and com­pla­cency. “We can­not af­ford to be over­con­fi­dent or com­pla­cent since less than 1% vote share di­vides us and the Congress,” he said. In the 2013 as­sem­bly elec­tions, the BJP had a vote share of 41.04%, while the Congress se­cured 40.29%. Of the 90 seats, the BJP won 49 and the Congress 39 with one seat each go­ing to the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) and an in­de­pen­dent.

CO­OR­DI­NA­TION BE­TWEEN GOV­ERN­MENT AND PARTY

But this is not the only cause of worry for the BJP. A section in the BJP is up­set that a “co­terie of bu­reau­crats around the chief min­is­ter is not only run­ning the gov­ern­ment but also in­ter­fer­ing” in party af­fairs. “The en­tire power rests with this co­terie. They have now started tak­ing de­ci­sions re­gard­ing party mat­ters,” said a BJP leader who is a known de­trac­tor of the chief min­is­ter. He re­fused to be named.

But Kaushik re­jects the con­tention. “A gov­ern­ment or bu­reau­crats can­not run a party. The fact is that a party forms the gov­ern­ment and not vice-versa. There is com­plete co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the party and the gov­ern­ment in Ch­hat­tis­garh,” he said. To but­tress his point, Kaushik cited the three-phase ‘Lok Su­raj Ab­hiyaan’, dur­ing which min­is­ters were sent to dif­fer­ent ar­eas to hear and ad­dress the griev­ances of the peo­ple and ap­prise them of the gov­ern­ment’s wel­fare schemes.

JOGI FAC­TOR

Kaushik ar­gued that Janta Congress Ch­hat­tis­garh leader Ajit Jogi would def­i­nitely hurt his for­mer party (Congress) but not af­fect the BJP. “His en­try in the poll arena will not im­pact us. In fact, he will cut into Congress votes,” he said.

But a state min­is­ter dis­agreed. “Up­per castes and OBCS (other back­ward classes) had gone away from the Congress and sup­ported the BJP be­cause of Jogi. They can now go back to the Congress. It is not a good sit­u­a­tion for us (BJP),” said the min­is­ter on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

CRU­CIAL DALIT/ TRIBAL VOTE

BJP lead­ers ad­mit that it will be dif­fi­cult for their party to re­tain nine of the 10 Sched­uled Castes seats it won in 2013.

“Some in­ci­dents of atroc­i­ties against the Dal­its in the re­cent past have gone against us. It is dif­fi­cult to claim that we will hold on to all those nine seats,” a leader said. But Kaushik coun­tered that the BJP has a good chance of mak­ing up the losses from tribal ar­eas, as had hap­pened in 2003 and 2008.

In the 29 tribal-dom­i­nated con­stituen­cies spread across Bas­tar, Sar­guja, Durg, Dham­tari, Bi­laspur and Jash­pur dis­tricts, the BJP had won ma­jor­ity of the seats in the 2003 and 2008 elec­tions, which even­tu­ally re­sulted in its vic­tory.

In 2008, the BJP had won 19 of the 29 tribal seats but the ta­bles turned in 2013 when the Congress man­aged to bag 18 seats.

This was mainly due to the sym­pa­thy wave aris­ing from the Maoist mas­sacre of its front­line lead­er­ship --- in­clud­ing Nand Kumar Pa­tel, Ma­hen­dra Karma, Gopal Mad­ha­van, Uday Kumar Mu­daliar and VC Shukla --- in May that year.

How­ever, the BJP is hop­ing to re­verse the trend in the up­com­ing elec­tions.

“We are get­ting pos­i­tive feed­back from tribal ar­eas this time. We will do very well in Bas­tar and Sar­guja,” Kaushik said.

BANK­ING ON MODI AND VA­J­PAYEE

The rul­ing party is bank­ing on in­tense cam­paign­ing by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ahead of the elec­tions, and hop­ing to cash in on voter sen­ti­ment by in­vok­ing the name of for­mer PM Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee, who died in mi­dau­gust.

It was dur­ing Va­j­payee’s ten­ure that Ch­hat­tis­garh was carved out of Mad­hya Pradesh in 2000.

Also, the sec­ond phase of the chief min­is­ter’s de­vel­op­ment ya­tra, start­ing Septem­ber 5, has been re­named Atal Vikas Ya­tra.

The gov­ern­ment has also de­cided to name Ch­hat­tis­garh’s new cap­i­tal (Naya Raipur) as Atal Na­gar. Raipur-based po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Di­wakar Muk­ti­bodh, a for­mer ed­i­tor of a na­tional Hindi daily, is not sure if the Bharatiya Janata Party strat­egy will work.

“There is a strong anti-in­cum­bency against the gov­ern­ment. They are try­ing to in­voke Atalji’s name in an at­tempt to gain sym­pa­thy vote. But I don’t think th­ese tac­tics will work,” said Raipur-based po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Di­wakar Muk­ti­bodh, a for­mer ed­i­tor of a na­tional Hindi daily.

AFP FILE

BJP lead­ers ad­mit that it will be dif­fi­cult for their party to re­tain nine of the 10 Sched­uled Castes seats it won in 2013.

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