The state of Chhattisgarh is all set to hold its much-hyped assembly polls in November. According to the schedule announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI), the tribal (Vanvasi) dominated state will hold its elections in two phases i.e on November 7th and 17th. Now, after the announcement made by the ECI, both the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are making tall claims about their triumph in the upcoming elections.
The same has also been reflected during the ongoing campaigns, which commenced a few months back, through which while the incumbent Congress government eyeing a return to power on the basis of mass appeal of their leadership, welfare schemes along with the recently introduced ‘Jitni aabadi utna haq’ formula of the Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A). On the other hand, the BJP has been walking cautiously while banking on Modi Magic, raising traditional issues such as illegal conversion, de-listing, and Maoist insurgency through time tested campaigns like Parivartan Yatra along with encircling the Congress government on scams worth crores of rupees allegedly flourished under the Congress regime.
Now that the state will hold its first phase of election within less than a month’s time from now, let’s delve into the campaign, core issues raised and chances for the saffron party who is eyeing a comeback in the tribal heartland after a drought of five years.
Aggressive campaign on corruption
There is no iota of doubt that the Narendra Modi led party has been running a fierce campaign against the ruling Congress party which secured a thumping majority in the state in the last assembly elections held. While setting aside the anti-incumbency factor and the Modi magic, the opposition BJP’S campaign in the state has so far heavily concentrated on the wide scale allegations of corruption during the tenure of the incumbent Congress government.
Notably, the mineral-rich state has grabbed the attention of the national media lately for all the wrong reasons where the opposition BJP hit the streets a number of times alleging that a number of scams, including the coal, liquor, Public Service Distributor (PSD), scams flourished and felicitated by the coal, liquor and other syndicates in cooperation with a few top government officials in the state.
One of the biggest alleged scams that have turned heads lately is the Rs 2000 crore liquor scam unearthed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). According to the findings of the agency, a Rs 2000 crore liquor scam in the state being operated by a cartel composed of bureaucrats, private liquor suppliers, government officials and persons with heavy political backing flourished in the state with Anwar Dhebar, brother of senior Congress leader and Raipur’s mayor as its kingpin.
Other than Anwar, ED had also arrested hotel promoter Nitish Purohit and liquor trader Triloki Singh Dhillon alias Pappu Dhillon. The economic intelligence agency has so far also attached 119 immovable assets worth Rs 121.87 crore of Anwar Dhebar, Anil Tuteja, Arunpati Tripathi and others in connection with the multi-crore liquor scam of Chhattisgarh on May 22 this year. The total assets attached or seized so far in the alleged state scam stand at approximately Rs180 crore.
While the liquor scam is not the only scam alleged by the BJP and investigated by the federal agencies, other alleged scams such as the coal extortion scam and Mahadev betting app scam are also being investigated by the central agencies. However, despite the allegations against the government, CM Bhupesh Baghel has been aggressively defending his government and alleging the central government of vendetta politics.
Nepotism in PSC
Another serious charge that the saffron party has labeled against the Congress government throughout the campaign is of the alleged nepotism in Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission (CGPSC) examination 2021, whose results were declared in April this year. The declaration of the list of successful candidates stirred a controversy as BJP claimed fraud in selection of the candidates. The list includes relatives of a few Congress leaders, senior bureaucrats along with seasoned businessmen.
The BJP has made the nepotism charges at one of its core issues in the elections campaign and also moved a petition in the high court given its impact on the youths who could prove to be detrimental in turning the tides in the favor of the saffron party. Recently the Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing a gathering in Bastar himself promised to initiate an enquiry into the matter and vowed to send the perpetrators behind the bars.
De-listing, illegal conversion and communal flare-ups
Other than the charges of corruption and nepotism the other issues aggressively put up by the BJP throughout the campaign is of the rising cases of communal scuffles and menace of conversion across the states. The party has aggressively engaged in a tug of war with the ruling Congress government over communal flare-ups in Kawardha, Bemetara and Narayanpur.
Recently the state president of BJP, Arun Sao while slamming the Congress government alleged that the youths of the Hindu community were falsely implicated into Biranpur case in which a Hindu youth Bhuvneshwar Sahu was brutally killed by an Islamist mob over a minor scuffle between children of both the community.
Earlier in 2021, the party had also hit the streets against the violence erupted in Kawardha over installation of a religious flag and alleged the administration for taking side and acting biasedly.
The party took a similar stance on the Narayanpur incident where an enraged mob backed by the missionaries attacked local Vanvasis gathered for a meet-up over growing cases of illegal conversion in Gorra village on new year eve this year.
The saffron party after the incident had rallied behind the Vanvasi community and alleged the administration for acting under pressure of the missionaries. Similarly the party has also endorsed the demand of a nation wide delisting exercise, a long held demand of the Vanvasi community to identify those who have embraced religion other than the Indian origin and still identify themselves as Hindus among the Vanvasis.
Another significant aspect of the BJP campaign in the run-up to the assembly polls has revolved around the upliftment of the Vanvasi community. The party leadership including the top brass has repeatedly asserted that it was none other than the BJP who supported a woman of the Vanvasi community to the top constitutional post of ‘Republic of Bharat’.
The top leaders of the party during the campaign have also highlighted the union government push for wide scale development works which have been carried out in the remote Vanvasi dominated regions of the state deprived from basic necessities for decades.
Recently the PM while inaugurating the much awaited Nagarnar steel plant in Bastar also highlighted the need for upliftment of the remote regions of Bharat in the overall development of the country. The PM further reminded that it was the BJP who created a separate department for tribals, allotted a separate budget, made a whole separate system for the Vanvasi community while the Congress on the other hand always neglected the people of Bastar.
The PM further elaborated that the BJP increased the scholarship for Vanvasi students to two and a half times more. We opened 300 model schools so that the children of the community could get quality education in their neighborhood. We are running aspirational districts scheme for development, now going further we are now identifying aspirational villages in which we will commence projects of education, health and employment.
The Parivartan Yatra
Banking on these core issues the saffron party had commenced its two-phase Parivartan Yatra covering almost all the constituencies of the state from Dantewada and Jashpur respectively on 12th and 15th of last month. While commencing the Yatra the BJP president asserted that the party will follow the footprints of party veteran and former union minister Dilip Singh Judev and will make a grand comeback in the assembly polls.
The Yatra, which commenced from northern and southern corner of the state concluded in Bilaspur, a city which almost cut the state by half where the PM Narendra Modi while launching a series of attacks on the incumbent state government said that the Parivartan Yatra has done a miracle, the people of Chhattisgarh have made their mind they will vote for a change.
It is pertinent to mention here that the BJP had launched a similar Parivartan Yatra in the run-up to the 2003 state assembly elections, which led to an ensuing victory for the party followed by back to back win in 2008 and 2013. Back then the party campaign was led by stalwarts like Dilip Singh Judev and former chief minister Raman Singh. Notably, the then campaign against the Ajit Jogi government had also revolved around the issue of illegal conversion in the Vanvasi heartland.
What lies ahead?
Now, despite of the fierce campaign and a number of issues raised aggressively by the leaders of the saffron party there is no iota of doubt that securing a majority in the upcoming polls would not be a cakewalk for the BJP, given the fact that the opposition party is up against the Bhupesh Baghel led party which is counting on their popular faces like T.S Singh Deo and the chief minister himself who also has a formidable grip on a certain section of the voters.
However the recent exit of the former union minister Arvind Netam from the Congress party and the anti-incumbency factor along with the fierce campaign led by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has pushed the BJP in a position where it can give the ruling Congress a run for their money, though, will the efforts put up by the BJP leadership in gaining the confidence of the masses in Chhattisgarh help blooming the lotus in the tribal heartland? The answer only lies in the womb of the future.