Maoist Hotbed Bastar Likely To Be A Game-changer in Chhattisgarh Polls
Debobrat Ghose, Raipur/ New Delhi
The day the Maoists attacked the Congress party convoy and killed 27 people including frontline Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh at Darbha valley in Bastar on May 25, the writing on the wall was clear. That the Maoists wont’ be sitting quite during the Assembly election in the state. And now it has formally been announced by the red cadres through a communiqué to the media.
Appealing for an election boycott, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has given a clear indication of possible violence during the forthcoming Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, to be held in two phases on November 11 and 19. It claims since the government has deployed a large number of forces, a counter-offensive has become inevitable due to repressive measures being undertaken by the security forces in the name of search operations.
Putting an end to controversies, the banned outfit said the May killings were not politically motivated, but a well-planned operation by the Maoist cadre against Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, and to convey the message that who-soever comes in their way would ruthlessly be eliminated.
Maoist leader and secretary, Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee, Ramanna in his statement on October 10 said killing of Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh Patel was a ‘serious mistake’. The seven-page statement clarified the killings saying, “Ours is a political movement and goals will be achieved by creating awareness”. It further claimed, “We are neither extremists nor terrorists, but are children of workers, farmers and middle classes.”
This sudden statement, given five months after the killings, is likely to generate a lot of political churning and mud-slinging.
The Vanvasi Bastar—a Maoist hotbed, has a special relevance in Chhattisgarh election as it will be the key to power in the state, with both the ruling BJP and the Congress gearing up for a nail-biting contest on November 11. In undivided Madhya Pradesh, Bastar division had been a traditional stronghold of the Congress. But, after the new state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of MP in November 2000, the BJP started gaining ground. In 2003 and 2008 polls, the BJP won nine and 11 out of 12 seats respectively.
To woo voters of this southern region of Chhattisgarh, the chief minister Dr Raman Singh made a series of announcements for the development of Vanvasi region, with its ‘Focus Bastar’ agenda. On the other hand, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi chose to launch his party’s campaign from Jagdalpur divisional headquarters of Bastar.
However, there is a palpable tension visible in Bastar, as the voters are under a serious threat from Maoists appealing for an election boycott. Despite the fear factor, polling in Bastar under heavy security cover will witness some interesting political turn of events.
Treading cautiously, the Congress has decided to give tickets to ‘right candidates’ on the basis of a survey conducted up to the Panchayat level. To gain ‘sympathy votes’, the party has given tickets to the family members of its slain leaders. One such from Dantewada constituency is Devti Karma, wife of former Home Minister late Mahendra Karma, who was killed on May 25 for his initiative in setting up of an anti-Naxal operation group Salwa Judum. Party MLA Kawasi Lakhma, who was involved in a controversy after the attack, has been re-nominated from Konta.
However, the Congress received a jolt on October 16, after a prominent Congress face from Bastar Mankuram Sodhi, a four-time MLA, who was also an MP, and his son Shankar Sodhi, a former minister resigned from the party protesting against ticket distribution, and joined the BJP.
Likewise, CGPCC secretary and a strong contender for party ticket from Bijapur, Sakni Chandraiyya, also resigned in protest as Vikram Shah Mandawi was given ticket from the seat. Chandraiyya along with his wife Jamuna Sakni, a district panchayat member, have joined the BJP along with five of his supporters on October 16, giving a blow to Congress ahead of the polls.
Currently, the BJP seems to have an upper hand with the inclusion of Kamal Chandra Bhanj Deo, the grandson of much adored erstwhile Bastar ruler Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo’s younger brother.
Pravir Chandra, the 20th Maharaja of Bastar state, took up the cause of Vanvasis and provided political leadership against exploitation of natural resources of the region and corruption in land reforms in the early 1960s. This led to unrest in the region and the then Congress government in undivided MP perceived him as a threat. In March 1966, when the Maharaja was leading a Vanvasi movement in Bastar, he was shot dead in a police action.
By and large the bottom line is, whichever party wins a majority of the 12 Bastar seats, stands a better chance to emerge as a winner in the Chhattisgarh’s 90-member Assembly polls.
Profile of Bastar
m Bastar Division has seven districts: Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada, Bastar (Jagdalpur), Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Kanker.
m Assembly seats: 12. (11 ST reserved and one General seat – Jagdalpur).
m At present: 11 seats with BJP; one with Congress.
m Lok Sabha seat: One (BJP).
m Seven major scheduled tribes Gonds, Muria, Maria, Dhorla, Bhatra, Halba, Dhurva.
m It is a part of the Red Corridor – the contiguous strip passing through Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand, managed by the Maoists for easy movement and safe passage of their operations.
It is Development vs Division
As the electioneering is getting momentum in Madhya Pradesh, the picture is getting clearer. The election to the 230-seat Madhya Pradesh Assembly will be held on November 25. For the divided Congress these elections are going to be a repetition of the 2008 ones, if not worse. It’s hard to say that what the bigger reason is for this pathetic condition of the Congress in MP; whether it’s the work done by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Government or the internal rivalry within the Congress itself. During the last 10 years, the huge inner conflicts in the MP Congress have only intensified and there is hardly any hope, even on the horizon, of ceasing them. To make the conditions even worse for the Congress Party, there is hardly any visible anti-incumbency factor against Shivraj Government.
Discussion about the inner-conflicts in the Congress is no secret now. The Congress in the State is not only internally divided but these ‘rival groups’ are often at drawn daggers with each other. Mainly divided in the groups of Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia the Congress is not in a position of threatening the BJP government. Congress’s ticket distribution, more or less, is done on the recommendations of these three only, which has reduced the State Congress Party to a group of ‘ticket-hungry’ individuals brown-nosing these big-wigs; and if this ‘hunger’ of the ticket is not properly fed it takes no time for that individual to turn rebel or sabotage the party from within. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the biggest rival of Congress in the upcoming elections is going to be ‘Congress’ itself.
BJP on the other hand is in a much better position in the State. Due the smooth and effective management and controlling of the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan it is having a upper hand on Congress. In recent years, some real acknowledgeable development work has been done in MP especially in field of agriculture growth where, according to reports, the wheat production in 2011-2012 has been 85 lakh tonnes as compared to 2 lakh tonnes of 2002-03. Similar is the case with other social schemes. One of the biggest achievements of Chouhan is that he has managed to adhere to the Hidutva-Agenda (like banning cow-slaughter or making Surya Namaskar mandatory in government schools) as well as maintaining a liberal and non-extremist image. Although the BJP has got serious reasons to worry due to the corruption allegations against its ministers and various bureaucrats in the State but the Charisma of Shivraj Singh, visible conflicts within the Congress and the haunting memories of the 10 year (1993-2003) regime Digvijay Singh in MP are enough to cloud these shortcomings of the BJP Government. —Aniruddh Subhedar
Candidate selection to play crucial role
Since beginning, the Rajasthan politics revolves around two poles. One is Congress Party and the other is BJP-Janata Dal (from 1980 to 1990 and Janata Party in different formats before 1980 polls). There are few states where the politics revolves around two parties between the BJP and the Congress. These states are Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and a few others. In two party system the loss of one party automatically translates into the dividend to other party. In these states, a short shift in voters completely changes the scenario. In 1998 in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress got only 3 lakh plus votes than the BJP and it got 172 seats, while the BJP 119 seats. In two party system the party which heads by a margin goes far ahead in electoral race.
In Rajasthan in 2003, the BJP got 89 lakh votes, while the INC got 82 lakh—a difference of nearly 7 lakh votes. In 2008, the INC got 88 lakh votes, while the BJP 82 lakh—a difference of a little more than 6 lakh votes. It is the 6 or 7 lakh votes which changed the Government in 2003 and 2008. The shift of these floating votes caused the change in governance. The mood of these voters is very crucial this time too. In 1998, the vote difference between these two parties was 2.2 million, while in 1993 it was merely 56,000. In 1993, the BJP got only 56,000 more votes than the INC and won the poll by winning 95 seats to INC 76 seats.
Among all the states which are going to polls in this phase, Rajasthan is the most crucial. In last round of polls of these states in 2008, it was only Rajasthan which changed the government, while Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh remained in the same hand with the same party and the Chief Minister.
The BJP lost last assembly poll by a small margin in 2008 due to its own bickering rather than the merit of the INC. In 2008, the new happening took place was the complete wiping of the ruling party. In 1998, the BJP came down to just 33 seats from 95 in 1993. While in 2003, the INC scaled down from 120 seats in 1998 to 56 seats. But the BJP got 78 seats in 2008 arresting the slide of the ruling party contrary to the state trend from 1998 and 2003.
In Rajasthan, the anti-incumbency against the sitting representatives remains prominent in assembly as well as in Lok Sabha polls too. In 2004, the BJP got 21 seats in Lok Sabha polls, while in 2009 the trend completely reversed and the Congress won 20 seats along with an Independent. BJP scaled down from 21 seats in 2004 to four seats in 2009.
The INC and the BJP have tough task of denying tickets to its non-performing MLAs in this round of assembly polls. The party, which commits minimum mistake in distributing tickets to such MLAs will be in comfortable position.
Like many states as of southern and Hindi speaking belt of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, the voters of Rajasthan are also divided in caste, and this should be one of the important parameters for both the contending parties. Muslims are also in considerable number in Rajasthan and the Congress party has taken them for granted in such states where it is in direct contest with the BJP. The Congress Party fielded only 4 Muslim candidates in Gujarat assembly poll in 2002 as it took them for granted in the wake of infamous Godhra riots. But the Gopalgarh riots and the Tonk issue compels Muslim to put their unsolicited faith with the Congress Party in Rajasthan.
Scams-ridden Congress searching new issues
PDS scam eats food security, regularisation of unauthorised colonies failed to click
As Left leanings of many AAP candidates distanced voters, party leaders start acting as paper tigers
With the announcement of December 4 as poll date, the electioneering for Assembly elections in Delhi has gained momentum. Initially by declaring all its candidates much in advance and also kicking an aggressive election campaign, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seemed to be disturbing the equations of both the major parties, the Congress and the BJP. But now it is going to receive a major setback after the poll results are out.
The single fact which is going to boomerang AAP is that majority of its candidates are ‘activists’ with Left leanings and they have no influence on the ground (in 2008 they all got just 1.28 per cent votes in Delhi). Their love for naxals is also known. There are also reports that all Left parties have joined hands with the AAP in Delhi with a view to gain ground in the national capital, the endeavour in which they have so far failed. Their hatred towards the non-Left people was witnessed during the Anna agitation also.
Undoubtedly, in the beginning the AAP candidates had received encouraging response from the public, but as soon as the background of its candidates became public, the people started distancing from it. That is why majority of the AAP candidates have now stopped door to door campaign and started acting as paper tigers issuing statements sitting at homes. Instead of organising any show of strength, they come only once a week, with ‘home made’ opinion polls or surveys in order to further mislead and confuse the voters. These frequent surveys have put a question mark over the credibility of the so-called surveyors who have joined hands with them.
The Congress thought of banking upon the two major issues—regularisation of about 875 unauthorised colonies and the Food Security Bill (FSB). The voters of unauthorised colonies are angry because even after the regularisation, the developmental activities in those colonies have not yet begun. As far as FSB is concerned, it flopped due to the large scale-PDS scam exposed by a news channel recently. Seeing both these issues failing to click, the Congress is now in search of new issues in order to again befool Delhi voters, as it did during the last Assembly polls of 2008 when it announced a housing scheme for poor people and even after receiving lakhs of applications not a single house was alloted to any poor during the last five years.
Now the systemic plunder of foodgrains meant for the poor in Delhi refreshed the memories of all the previous scams like Commonwealth Games in which Congress leaders together looted Delhi. The main Opposition BJP has demanded a White Paper on this plunder. “The Congress Government is duping poor through multi-crore PDS scam. Fake ration cards have been made in lakhs. According to 2011 census, Delhi’s population was 1.68 crore. But, the names mentioned in the ration cards are 1.8 crore. Even the 2011 Economic Survey of Delhi said that the city has 33.4 lakh households and 32.26 lakh ration cards. It had been found in 2008 itself that more than 1.7 lakh bogus ration cards were issued in Delhi. Even the CAG questioned this dramatic rise in ration cards. During audit the CAG found that more than 82,000 ration cards were printed in excess. Data for more than 92,000 ration cards, already issued, was not available with the government.
In the present 70 member Assembly (58 general and 12 reserved for SC), the Congress has 43 seats, BJP 23, BSP 2, one Independent and one Lok Janshakti Party. A total of 57.58 per cent voters had cast their votes in 2008. The ruling Congress had bagged 40.31 per cent votes, while the BJP got 36.84 per cent. The BSP had also got 14.05 per cent votes.
But the two major political developments in Delhi during the last one and a half years have proved that the people of Delhi want to get rid of the Congress without delay. During the MCD elections, held last year, they again elected the BJP in all the three MCDs. Out of total 272 seats, the BJP got 138 (+11 seats) and the Congress was finished at just 78.
Undoubtedly, Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections display the mood of youth in the national capital. And this mood is in favour of the BJP, and certainly not with the Congress, as the Congress-backed NSUI got just one seat. These elections also exposed the Aam Aadmi Party, which claims to be the party backed by youth, as it could not dare to field even a single candidate in DUSU elections.
Till the time of writing this report, the candidates by both the major parties, the BJP and the Congress, had not been declared. The real campaign will begin only after the declaration of the candidates. But fact is that the public mood is against the scams-ridden Congress. It is good opportunity for the BJP, if it gives a united fight.