Maya-Jogi May­hem!

Ch­hat­tis­garh is ei­ther go­ing with Ra­man Singh or a hung assem­bly giv­ing BSP-JCC to have their say in the next gov­ern­ment as Congress’ hopes have scaled down to 40 seats only

The Day After - - CONTENTS - By Asit Manohar Feed­back on: re­[email protected]­terindia.com

Pre­dict­ing any­thing in Ch­hat­tis­garh is fraught with dif­fi­cul­ties. Tra­di­tion­ally, it has been a bi­nary ri­valry be­tween the BJP and the Congress with the dif­fer­ence of vote be­ing only about one per­cent ei­ther way. The dif­fi­culty this time is the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party-Janata Congress Ch­hat­tis­garh com­bi­na­tion of for­mer Congress chief min­is­ter Ajit Jogi is likely to up­set all cal­cu­la­tions.

In the ab­sence of any strong wave, Ch­hat­tis­garhis have al­ways voted con­ser­va­tively and in line with their mod­er­ate na­ture. But ev­ery time a na­tional wave rises, it does not crash on Ch­hat­tis­garh’s shore. So few ground rules were vis­i­ble in all the con­stituen­cies. In Sakti, for­mer Union min­is­ter Cha­ran Das Ma­hant ap­pears com­fort­able as he is a big name and peo­ple will rather have him than Sahu. In neigh­bour­ing Ram­pur, for­mer home min­is­ter Nanki­ram Kan­war of the BJP is ex­pected to win. In Korba, sit­ting MLA of the Congress Jais­ingh Agawal, whose wife is also the mayor, is ex­pected to sail through. Even Vi­mal Cho­pra, the only in­de­pen­dent MLA in the state, is ex­pected to re­tain Ma­hasamund.

So as the state goes to vote these are the dis­cernible trends:

• There is no wave in any­one’s favour. No un­der­cur­rents ei­ther.

• The BJP is hope­ful of a sta­tus quo, claim­ing an in­cum­bency fac­tor in its favour.

• It is de­pend­ing on a dis­rup­tive rather than a con­struc­tive the­ory of elec­tion man­age­ment and on the in­abil­ity of the op­po­si­tion to prick the bal­loon. Both Rahul Gandhi and Naren­dra Modi have talked of ev­ery­thing from Rafale to dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics but not lo­cal is­sues in­clud­ing MSP and cor­rup­tion. • The pres­ence of a po­tent third party al­liance has not deterred ei­ther of the main con­tenders from play­ing their own small games in­clud­ing fix­ing or sell­ing seats.

• The usual elec­tion is­sues like ‘bi­jli, pani, de­vel­op­ment’ are a foot­note.

Its ei­ther the lethargy of the elec­torate, in­abil­ity of the op­po­si­tion to throw up a chal­lenge, Ra­man Singh’s blessed luck or all three put to­gether, that has re­sulted in an un­bro­ken 15-year reign for the three­time chief min­is­ter. But de­spite the years in power, he has re­mained like­able – a down to earth per­son that the Ch­hat­tis­garhis love. Very few may claim to have seen him an­gry or per­turbed over any­thing. He has weath­ered three elec­tions, the elim­i­na­tion of en­tire op­po­si­tion top brass by the Maoists and some fee­ble chal­lenges from within. His rat­ing has re­mained good af­ter three terms and that in it­self is a small mir­a­cle for any in­cum­bent chief min­is­ter.

The sad part though is that en­nui has set in, pri­mar­ily the re­sult of a long reign. Lack of new ideas and an ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­come opaque and com­pla­cent. The same peo­ple have been run­ning the show for past two decades and look vis­i­bly tired and bereft of ideas other than ex­tolling the virtues of their leader. Gov­ern­ment ser­vants never seem to re­tire, party faces never change and even the cook, gar­dener and driv­ers of the chief min­is­ter’s house have be­come used to a pat­tern of life. It can’t be good for democ­racy. It does not

need chaos but cer­tainly more vi­brancy. The bot­tom line though is that if there was no Ra­man Singh in the equa­tion, then it would have been a cake walk for the op­po­si­tion.

For­mer chief min­is­ter Jogi’s strength is his abil­ity to bounce out of ev­ery hard­ship in life, an in­domitable spirit and pen­chant to spring a sur­prise. He worked hard on his re­la­tion­ship with Mayawati when most ex­pected him to work through his batch­mate PL Pu­niya to rec­on­cile with the Congress. He did that too but hav­ing failed to break through the Rahul co­terie, he has thrown in the dice with Mayawati. Jogi’s pen­chant for sur­prises, of course, ex­tends to his in­abil­ity to re­tain the loy­alty of those who stand by him. Af­ter a proper name calling and wrestling match be­tween JCC trea­surer Ga­jraj Pa­gariya and another loy­al­ist Vi­jay Ni­jhawan in Jogi’s res­i­dence, the for­mer re­signed from the party two days be­fore polling.

Baghel’s bel­liger­ence is both his strength and his weak­ness. He is the only Con­gress­man who has been able to stand up to both Jogi and Ra­man Singh. A mem­ber of the Digvi­jay Singh cab­i­net of the 90s in MP, he has his own cir­cle of in­flu­ence. And that cir­cle has been built very strongly on a pro-Kurmi and anti-up­per caste pol­i­tics. He is a prod­uct of a time when Shuk­las ruled Ch­hat­tis­garh and was backed by Ar­jun Singh and Digvi­jay who wanted to cut down the Shukla in­flu­ence. Along with Satya­narain Sharma, Cha­ran­das and Nand­ku­mar Pa­tel he was part of a band of lead­ers who had held in­flu­en­tial po­si­tions in un­di­vided MP. While Cha­ran got his chance as PCC pres­i­dent last time af­ter Pa­tel was shot down, Baghel ben­e­fited from the fact that Cha­ran­das was seen as a mild leader who could not ef­fec­tively counter Jogi within the party and the BJP out­side. Thus Baghel as­cended the PCC throne and soon proved to Rahul that he could counter Jogi who from all ac­counts got the blame for the loss in 2013.

THE COUNT

That brings us to what is the ac­tual count on the ground. If we were to take all sure win­ners from both par­ties – based on their record and present abil­ity – there is not much head­way. From the Congress all se­nior lead­ers are ex­pected to win. So is true of the BJP. A seat by seat anal­y­sis in­di­cates that both par­ties are ex­pected to win 27 seats each. That makes it 54, so the con­test will be for the re­main­ing 36 seats.

It’s here where Jogi hopes to come into play. He is hop­ing to stop both the par­ties short of the sim­ple ma­jor­ity mark of 46. So what are his chances? Re­al­is­ti­cally the al­liance can win – Chan­dra­pur, Ja­jaipur, Mar­wahi, Kota, Akaltara, Pam­garh, Sarangarh and Mun­geli. It can hope to cause an up­set in Kas­dol, Lormi, Khaira­garh and Bhanuprat­ap­pur. It can also hope to fin­ish sec­ond in Arang, Nav­a­garh and Ahir­wara. The best case sce­nario for the al­liance is that it may win 8 seats. It will be des­per­ately hop­ing to stop the BJP and Congress at 40 and 42 re­spec­tively. Then Jogi can ne­go­ti­ate with ei­ther party.

Will that hap­pen? It may not since BJP has been con­tin­u­ously harp­ing that Jogi is a friend much to Mayawati’s con­ster­na­tion. Jogi had to ul­ti­mately call a press con­fer­ence and swear on re­li­gious texts that he will not sup­port BJP. The BJP plan is to im­press upon the elec­torate that it is go­ing to come back to power with or with­out Jogi and that Congress is out of the race.

The BJP ap­ple cart might roll over in the plains where its min­is­ters are in the fray. Amar Agar­wal from Bilaspur, Ajay Chan­drakar from Ku­rud, Ra­jesh Mu­dat from Raipur West, Prem Prakash Pandey from Bhi­lai and Speaker Gau­r­is­hankar Agar­wal from Kas­dol are all on weak wicket. If they lose then BJP may get re­stricted to 40-42.

The Congress thinks it has done very well in the first round of polling on Novem­ber 12 for 18 seats. It ex­pects to win 14 of them im­prov­ing upon its last first phase tally of 12 out of 18. It’s also bank­ing heav­ily on its stal­warts to come through as well as an en­nui fac­tor — more than the anti-in­cum­bency. Iron­i­cally the anti-in­cum­bency works more against the Congress sit­ting MLAs than the BJP but the party has re­fused to learn its lessons which may be its un­do­ing. Two months ago, it was hop­ing to win 54 seats and if BSP came on board then 58. Now it has seen its for­tunes de­cline to 40s.

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