Nei­ther Ram mandir nor Rafale has res­o­nance here

Devel­op­ment, farm pro­duce prices, ed­u­ca­tion are the dom­i­nant is­sues

The Hindu Business Line - - POLITICS - POORN­IMA JOSHI PTI

Hin­dutva and Ram mandir may as well be crafted in hi­ero­glyph­ics, said Ram Fan­oti, a Gond tribal in south­ern Ch­hat­tis­garh, a State ruled by the BJP for 15 years.

Fan­oti is equally per­plexed by Rafale and de­fence scams but the Congress aka panja (the Congress elec­tion sym­bol) has the ad­van­tage of habit dur­ing a cam­paign, marked by a se­ries of vi­o­lent strikes by the Maoists, who seem de­ter­mined to im­pose their boy­cott of elec­tions this time.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi made his one and only pub­lic ap­pear­ance on Fri­day in Jag­dalpur (Bas­tar dis­trict) for the first phase of elec­tions in Ch­hat­tis­garh where cam­paign­ing will come to an end on Sat­ur­day.

Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi will spend two days in th­ese parts and ad­dress five pub­lic ral­lies and a road­show in Chief Min­is­ter Ra­man Singh’s home turf, Ra­j­nandgaon. The Congress had won 12 of the 18 tribal seats in South­ern parts of Ch­hat­tis­garh where polling is sched­uled for No­vem­ber 12 un­der heav­ing se­cu­rity. The fear of Maoist boy­cott has height­ened in the last two weeks, de­spite the dep­u­ta­tion of nearly 65,000 se­cu­rity per­son­nel here. The lo­cal Congress work­ers be­lieve that the en­hanced threat per­cep­tion is aimed at keep­ing its tra­di­tional vot­ers away from the polling booths in the in­te­rior areas.

“We have asked the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to fly our polling agents along with the Com­mis­sion of­fi­cers in in­te­rior areas. We sus­pect that an at­mos­phere of fear that is be­ing cre­ated, de­spite heavy po­lice pres­ence, is to stop the tra­di­tional Congress sup­port­ers from cast­ing their votes,” said Ra­jesh Ti­wari, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Ch­hat­tis­garh Congress Com­mit­tee.

Manoj Man­davi, the sit­ting MLA and Congress can­di­date from Bhanuprat­ap­pur Assem­bly con­stituency in Kanker dis­trict be­lieves that the tribal vote, sub­stan­tial in Ch­hat­tis­garh with an es­ti­mated 30 per cent of the elec­torate hail­ing from the Sched­uled Tribes, will lean on the Congress’s side.

Prom­ises made

At a small gath­er­ing of lo­cal Gond trib­als in Bhanuprat­ap­pur, Man­davi, he re­peated the Congress’ of­fer of waiv­ing farm loans and in­creas­ing the Min­i­mum Sup­port Price (MSP) for paddy. Ac­cord­ing to both Ti­wari and Man­davi, the is­sues on which the elec­tion cam­paign is fo­cused have lit­tle to do with the BJP’s pet ide­o­log­i­cal themes — Ram Mandir, re-con­ver­sion of trib­als (ghar vapsi) and Hin­dutva.

Lo­cal gov­er­nance, devel­op­ment, farm pro­duce prices, health and ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties File photo of peo­ple wait­ing to cast votes at a polling booth in Dan­te­wada dis­trict, Ch­hat­tis­garh

are pop­u­lar themes in this elec­tion. The BJP also agreed that is­sues such as Hin­dutva and Ram Mandir have no res­o­nance in Ch­hat­tis­garh.

“For us, Ram Mandir is to do with our ide­ol­ogy and be­lief. It is not an elec­tion is­sue,” said Pankaj Jha, a lo­cal worker in the Raipur BJP of­fice. The rea­sons are ob­vi­ous — Ch­hat­tis­garh has a mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tion of 3.94 per cent, of which 2.02 per cent are

Mus­lims. In the south­ern re­gion of Ch­hat­tis­garh, set to vote in the first phase of polls on No­vem­ber 12, prices of farm pro­duce, lo­cal gov­er­nance and pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem are ma­jor is­sues on which the cam­paign is based. In a State where the mar­gin of vic­tory be­tween the rul­ing BJP and the Congress was just 0.75 per cent, ev­ery seat is be­ing con­tested on lo­cal is­sues and cred­i­bil­ity of the in­di­vid­ual can­di­dates.

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