Farce of Polls in Ch­hat­tis­garh

Both the BJP and Congress field­ing al­most the same can­di­dates for over two decades, vot­ers are com­pelled to choose from the bad spread be­fore them

The Day After - - CONTENT - By dAnFEs

In Ch­hat­tis­garh, for the past two decades and more, the same can­di­dates have been con­test­ing all the elec­tions for the two ma­jor par­ties – the BJP and Congress. There are 90 as­sem­bly seats and the two ma­jor par­ties field 180 can­di­dates ev­ery elec­tion. A sur­pris­ing fact is that more than 136 can­di­dates put up by both par­ties have al­ways bagged the tick­ets for the same con­stituency or the neigh­bor­ing one over the past four elec­tions.

Most se­nior lead­ers from both par­ties are a residue of the 1990s: Bri­j­mo­han Agar­wal, Prem­prakash Pandey, Ajay Chan­drakar, Ra­man Singh, Amitesh Shukla, Baghel, CD Ma­hant, Satya­narain Sharma, Khel­sai Singh, Prem­sai Singh, Dehru Dhritle­here, Arun Vora, Ak­bar, Kawasi to name a few. The list seems end­less. In the name of change, wives, sons, brothers, nieces and neph­ews of prom­i­nent lead­ers have bagged tick­ets. Moti­lal Vora, Shyama Cha­ran, Arvind Ne­tam, Bisahu Ma­hant, Ma­hen­dra Karma, Nand­ku­mar Pa­tel, Ra­man Singh, Bali­ram Kashyap to the Jhu­muk­lal Bhe­dia fam­ily are a few ex­am­ples. This is de­spite the fact that the Congress’s en­tire top lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing Nand­ku­mar Pa­tel, Ma­hen­dra Karma, VC Shukla and Mudliar, had been killed by Nax­alites in 2013.

Some con­stituen­cies have not seen a change in nearly five decades. Shyama Cha­ran Shukla fought his first elec­tions from Ra­jim in 1962 (be­fore, he was elected from the dual con­stituency of Brin­da­van­gardh-Ra­jim in 1957). He con­tin­ued to be elected un­til 1980. He won again in 1990, con­tin­u­ing till 1998, when he gave the seat to his son Amitesh, who has been con­test­ing ever since. Amitesh Shukla has al­ready lost two of three elec­tions he has con­tested since the state was formed, but Congress is un­will­ing to find a dif­fer­ent can­di­date.

His op­po­nent San­tosh Upad­hyay of the BJP con­tested as an in­de­pen­dent in 2003. In 2008 and 2013, he con­tested as the BJP can­di­date, los­ing in the first in­stance and win­ning the sec­ond. As the sit­ting MLA, he has been re­peated from the BJP again. What real choice have peo­ple of Ra­jim had in past 20 years? Chan­dru Sahu who con­tested and won against Amitesh Shukla in 2003 was made the Lok Sabha can­di­date in 2009 from Ma­hasamund, of which Ra­jim is a part. Amitesh Shukla’s Un­cle VC Shukla had con­tested and won Ma­hasamund nine times from the 1950s to the 1990s. In 2004, when he con­tested as the BJP can­di­date, he fi­nally lost to Ajit Jogi of Congress.

RA­JIM NOT ALONE

Ra­jim is not the only ex­am­ple. In fact, two dozen lead­ers from Congress and about a dozen and half from BJP have been the goto can­di­dates for cer­tain con­stituen­cies, win or lose. On top of this, most of th­ese lead­ers also con­test the Lok Sabha within which their as­sem­bly seg­ment falls. Thus, los­ing or win­ning the as­sem­bly has lit­tle con­se­quences as they re­main the party face in their fief­doms. Ra­man Singh, Moti­lal Vora, Chan­drashekhar Sahu, Ma­hant, Pawan Di­wan, Ramesh Bais, Ne­tam, Kawasi Lakhma, Ma­hen­dra Karma are few ex­am­ples of lead­ers who

have carved out a geo­graph­i­cal area for them­selves.

This phe­nom­e­non is not lim­ited to one re­gion of the state ei­ther. The Durg divi­sion on the state’s west has had Ra­man Singh and son, Vora and son, Ravin­dra Choubey, Bhu­pesh Baghel, Saroj Pandey, Prem­prakash and Qureshi dom­i­nate for decades. Raipur divi­sion in the cen­tre has had Bri­j­mo­han, Ramesh Bais and Satya­narain Sharma. Bi­laspur divi­sion on the east has Amar Agar­wal fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his late fa­ther Lakhi­ram and Ajit Jogi fam­ily. Up north, the Jash­pur fam­i­lies of the Judeos dom­i­nate from Dilip Singh to cur­rent Ran­vi­jay. In Sar­guja, the dom­i­nan fam­ily is of TS Singh Deo. Down South in Korba, its Bisahu Das Ma­hant and Cha­ran­das. In Bas­tar, it’s the Ne­tams, Kar­mas, Usendis, Man­davis and Kashyaps.

Be­tween then, th­ese fam­i­lies also dic­tate tick­ets to all the con­stituen­cies fall­ing within their area of in­flu­ence.

AFFINITY FOR RAIPUR

An­other in­ter­est­ing ob­ser­va­tion is that of the 180 can­di­dates who con­test the Vid­han Sabha in any given year, a huge ma­jor­ity live in the cap­i­tal city of Raipur. Only those from Bhi­lai, Durg and Bi­laspur, which are towns close to Raipur, ever live in their own con­stituen­cies for ex­tended pe­ri­ods. One ar­gu­ment could be that al­most all po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is con­cen­trated in Raipur, so ev­ery­one has a res­i­dence here. How­ever, ex­cept for the ex­treme north­ern and south­ern parts of the state, ev­ery town is within three hours of road jour­ney from the cap­i­tal. If the sit­ting MLA and his/her chief chal­lenger don’t even phys­i­cally live in the con­stituency they seek to rep­re­sent, how much they can do for its peo­ple?

A case in point here is Kas­dol – a three hour drive from Raipur. It’s the biggest con­stituency in the state with over 3 lakh vot­ers. The present speaker, Gau­r­is­hankar Agar­wal, rep­re­sents it now. Be­tween him and Ra­jka­mal Sing­ha­nia of the Congress, they have rep­re­sented the seat for two decades. Nei­ther has a per­ma­nent home in Kas­dol nor fam­ily or roots. Both are Agar­wals in an area dom­i­nated by OBCs and Dal­its. They are big busi­ness­men who run their em­pires from Raipur. Why nei­ther party will look for a lo­cal al­ter­na­tive is not a dif­fi­cult guess.

COR­RUP­TION NOT A MAT­TER

The BJP, which has ruled the state for the past 15 years, has not de­nied a ticket to any sit­ting min­is­ter ac­cused of im­pro­pri­ety and cor­rup­tion. Even if the min­is­ters are de­feated, they find other ways to re­main in power. Some of them have been made chair­per­sons and oth­ers state party of­fice bear­ers. This keeps the seat warm for them till they get the ticket again and win. Ajay Chan­drakar lost in 2008, but won in 2013 and was sworn in as a min­is­ter. So did Speaker Prem­prakash Pandey. Dharam Kaushik and Ramvichar Ne­tam are two other ex­am­ples of peo­ple who have con­tin­ued to block winds of change.

This time, the party says it will change about 30% of its can­di­dates, but it could be noth­ing more than an eye­wash. They will merely be put on the back burner for five years, per­haps with a cosy chair­man­ship, only to be brought back again in the fol­low­ing elec­tions.

In fact, their in­flu­ence is not re­stricted to the as­sem­bly and par­lia­ment seats. The same can­di­dates also con­test the may­oral seats in all ma­jor towns. Pramod Dube, Saroj Pandey, Vani Rao and Soni are all may­ors of dif­fer­ent towns who have con­tested as­sem­bly and Lok Sabha seats. Nat­u­rally, it ex­tends to zila pan­chayat seats as well. There are 27 zila pan­chayat seats and most of the can­di­dates who con­test them would have ei­ther lost the As­sem­bly elec­tions or were de­nied a ticket in a close call. They are all nat­u­rally aligned to power peo­ple in their own dis­tricts and di­vi­sions.

You would be gullible to think smaller par­ties are any dif­fer­ent. When VC Shukla re­belled and joined the NCP, he took with him a clutch of Con­gress­men. No­bel Verma, a rebel con­gress­man was the only win­ner from his camp. This time around, with Jogi launch­ing his own party (Janata Congress Ch­hat­tis­garh), an­other clutch of Con­gress­men have bro­ken ranks and will con­test with the party’s ticket. Renu Jogi, Amit Jogi, Dharamjit Singh, Rai and Devvrat Singh are the prom­i­nent ones amongst them.

But Ajit Jogi may yet buck this trend and give tick­ets to new faces be­cause of his seat shar­ing for­mula with Mayawati. This may reap him a good har­vest in the fu­ture. Rest as­sured though, that the state will once again have to se­lect and not elect a law­maker from the poor spread be­fore it.

Amitesh Shukla

Dilip Singh Judeo

Gau­r­is­hankar Agar­wal

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