For national analysts, the crushing defeat of the Congress in Chhattisgarh is more shocking than the BJP’s triumph. Those who had a ringside view of Chhattisgarh’s politics felt that Bhupesh Baghel is not as strong on the ground, as it was being claimed. But nobody expected that Congress, which opened its innings aggressively, would be reduced to 35 seats. The combat seemed close! It looked like Congress would manage 44-46 seats. So what happened that the Congress lost badly and the BJP came to power with a historic mandate? Has the charisma of PM Modi worked again? Or are there other reasons too? Politics is not simple and solitary. Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma has yet again reached newer heights. But to explain Congress’s dismal performance, we also have to look for reasons in the rot which the historic party has become.
Betrayal By Congress
The foundation of the historic defeat of the Congress in Chhattisgarh was laid on the same day when Bhupesh Baghel was made the Chief Minister with a two-and-a-half-year formula by clipping the wings of Tamradhwaj Sahu. The Sahu society took it as a betrayal! Sahu is the most powerful backward caste in Chhattisgarh. This resentment was to cost the Congress heavily. Then two-and-a-half years later, the Congress committed another betrayal. As promised, Baghel refused to make way for TS Singh Deo as the Chief Minister. The Surguja region took it as an insult. Then the kind of lewdness shown by TS Singh Deo reduced his own credibility. A leader who cannot fight for his rights, how will he fight for the rights of the people? Congress was completely wiped out from the Surguja division. Fourteen of the 14 seats went out of hand. TS Singh Deo himself lost the election! The first year after Bhupesh Baghel became the Chief Minister was full of expectations. Loan waiver and paddy premium raised hopes of revival in the rural economy. This initial applause spoiled the mind of the Baghel Government. The Government deviated from the path of good governance. Neither the rural economy developed properly nor the development of cities took place.
Creating Inequality in Rural Areas
A chaotic situation ensued in which the system started making people wear hats. Paddy premium was being paid but pressure was also being made to purchase Vermicompost. That is money was given with one hand and money was taken with the other hand. Then the premium of paddy also increased the economic inequality at the village level. The number of small farmers is much higher than the big farmers. Small farmers got a profit of a few thousand and big farmers got a few lakhs. The difference between a thousand and a lakh Tendu leaves and some other forest products is very high. Economic inequality increased and the resentment kept growing. Other Government schemes for development started getting hampered due to loan waivers and paddy premiums.
Neglecting Tribal Areas
Tribal areas were the most neglected. The Centre’s plans were not allowed to fill the gap and the Union-Government led development process was stalled by the inner turmoil of the maladministration in the State. Housing and toilet schemes were halted. Tribal people kept receiving meager compensation for tendu leaves. They were not provided opportunities for political participation and moreover, economic opportunities were minimised. Resentment amidst tribals rose greatly and there were many protests in Raipur. But that too did not deter Bhupesh Baghel and his advisors. They felt that by token and symbolic celebrations and dancing and singing, they would tempt the tribals by raising the slogan of Chhattisgarhi identity and it didn’t happen. The tribal society is seeing that children of upper castes and children of powerful backward castes are playing cricket, football, golf, and chess. But their children are being compelled to stay content with the primitivism of gulli danda. They are also seeing that children from the dominant castes are working in IT companies. They are roaming in the car and they and their children are forced to collect tendu leaves and sell them. The tribals could be naïve, but not foolish. Today they want to talk about their rights and you have to talk to them about their rights. The veil and burglary in their favour cost the Congress heavily. Of the 29 tribal seats, the Congress could win only 12. Last time, this figure was 27. It’s a big loss.
Crisis in Cities
Even in cities, the Congress has lost badly. The biggest reason for this is the neglect of urban aspirations. In the last five years, there were hardly any new schemes in the cities. No special attention was paid to infrastructure development. Because the investment was very low. No special attention was paid to increasing investment. Investment provides employment opportunities to the youth. Those opportunities did not come. Government jobs shrunk. There is no substantial growth in the private sector. The youth were angry. Urban youth was angry. They expressed their resentment. In short, there was an undercurrent against the Congress government in Chhattisgarh. And the Congress strategists further fueled it with their poor decisions at the last moment. The news of corruption affected the people to a great extent. People felt that the image of Suraaj and Swaraj created by the Congress is nothing but an illusion. This completely broke the trust of the people. The Congress had opened in 2018-19, but it started lagging behind in the middle overs. And in the last over, the Congress performed so poorly that what to say!
Bad and Good Electioneering
We, the voters, are profiled in the era of modern electioneering practices and strategies are made accordingly. It seemed that unlike most other previous elections, Congress had no strategy in this election too. In comparison, the BJP’s strategy was much more aggressive. BJP was constantly working on backward society and tribal society. The party was also working with the most powerful Dalit section, i.e. Satnami society. The command of the State was handed over to Arun Sao. He comes from the influential Sahu community in the State. Tribal leader and Union Minister Renuka Singh was fielded by the BJP in the Assembly elections and it indicated the tribals’ respectable share in power. Guru Khushwant Saheb, a descendant of Guru Ghasidas, was drawn to the party’s side. Not only this, the BJP leadership changed its stand on the premium of paddy and announced a price of Rs 3100 per quintal. This was PM Modi’s guarantee and it was announced by Union Home Minister and BJP strongman Amit Shah. He also promised to give 12 thousand rupees per year to women. He promised to reduce the price of LPG cylinders to Rs 500. And promised 10 thousand per year to landless agricultural laborers. These were revolutionary declarations! BJP had now made up its mind to defeat the Congress on the basis of its formula. This strategy and aggressive campaign of the BJP’s central leadership had scripted the defeat of the Congress in Chhattisgarh. Big veterans of the Congress lost the election. Nine out of 13 Ministers in the Bhupesh Baghel Government lost the election. Obviously, there was widespread resentment against these people and the aggressive strategy of the BJP completely cashed in on that resentment.
What Next for BJP?
After the first phase of voting, the Bhupesh Baghel Government had an idea of this. After the first phase of polling on November 7, they made some efforts to improve the atmosphere before the second phase of polling. On Deepawali, he announced to give 15 thousand rupees annually to women. But the damage had been done. The gap had widened considerably. The people had made up their mind for change. Bhupesh Baghel and his government had lost the trust of the public. In comparison, the public trusted PM Modi’s guarantee. And gave a historic mandate to BJP.
BJP has been given a historic mandate and it has come with increased responsibilities. BJP will have to give a respectable share to the Sahu community, the most powerful backward caste along with the tribals. Satnami society and forward caste will also have to be given due share in power. All promises made to the public have to be fulfilled. And the focus has to be on the development of the private sector. Since Bharat has after liberalisation diverted the stream of economic development to the private sector, then its development has to be focused. Naya Raipur is still waiting for investors. They have to be drawn towards you. Development is not possible without capital. Peace is not possible without employment. Investment is not possible without security. Everything is inter-connected. Therefore, all the organs of the system have to work together. And everything has to be done in an honest way. The public has expressed confidence; BJP will have to respect that trust. Along with the magical charisma of PM Modi, the miracle of good governance will also have to be run.