'Brand Modi' to Help BJP Negate Assembly Poll Losses in Chhattisgarh, Predicts Exit Polls

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: Reuters)

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: Reuters)

In Chhattisgarh, the contest was seen as a fight between BJP’s central leadership and Congress' regional leaders.

Raipur: In a battle between the central BJP leadership and Congress' regional satraps in Chhattisgarh, the saffron party is set to win the race according to News18 IPSOS exit poll survey.

According to the survey, BJP is likely to win 7 to 9 seats out of 11, while ruling Congress is set to win just 2 to 4 seats.

However, according to ABP NEILSEN survey, it is a close fight between BJP and Congress. They have placed 6 seats in BJP’s basket with 5 for Congress. Even India Today-Axis survey has predicted that seven to eight seats would go to BJP with 3-4 to Congress.

In Chhattisgarh, the contest was seen as a fight between BJP’s central leadership and Congress' regional leaders. In other words, between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel. One helped BJP sweep 10 out of 11 parliamentary seats in last general elections while the other played a crucial role in helping Congress win 68 out of 90 seats in recently held assembly polls.

To counter anti-incumbency, BJP responded to the drubbing by changing its candidates in all 11 Lok Sabha seats. Not even veteran OBC leader Ramesh Bais, who has represented the Raipur Lok Sabha seat since 1996, was given a ticket by his party.

Changing its candidates, the BJP tried to achieve three objectives -- reduce the role of anti-incumbency, reinvigorate ground workers and end all factionalism within the state unit, and fight elections under a single brand name, Narendra Modi. In the battle for Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh, history is on the side of the BJP. It has won 10 of 11 seats in the last three general elections.

The Congress, in the limited time of two months it had before the model code of conduct kicked in, tried to capitalise on its assembly victories by initiating several steps aimed specifically at the most distressed section of the society -- farmers and adivasis. For farmers, the Congress government promised, and to a certain extent, delivered MSP of paddy at Rs 2,500 per quintal. In a state with over 36 lakh farmers, this is bound to be a big issue. The Congress also tried to gain from reducing power tariffs in urban areas.

The party also tried to put up a pro-tribal image by returning their land acquired by Tata Group in Bastar immediately upon coming to power in the state. It was also one of the first movers to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Forest Rights Act issue, forestalling the displacement of lakhs of tribal people.

To try and cut the influence of Modi, and reinforce the image of delivering on its promises, the Congress had issued two major poll slogans -- 'Jo Kaha So Kiya' and 'Chhattisgarh Badla, Desh Badlenge'.

Some of the interesting battles within the state were fought in Durg, where former Congress MLA Pratima Chandrakar took on BJP’s Vijay Baghel, a Kurmi leader and former MLA. Durg was the one seat Congress had won in last general election. State home minister Tamradhwaj Sahu of the Congress, who was the state unit chief, was elected from Durg in the last Lok Sabha election. But he later resigned from the seat to contest the assembly polls.

Tribal influence will be tested in Korba where Congress' Jyotsna Mahant, wife of assembly Speaker Charandas Mahant, was pitted against BJP’s Jyotinand Dubey.

BJP's Arun Sao contested against Atal Srivastav of the Congress in Bilaspur, a largely rural constituency. In place of Ramesh Bais, who has represented Raipur seven times, the BJP fielded Sunil against the Congress’ Pramod Dubey. One of the seats most affected by Maoist violence, Sarguja, an ST reserved seat, saw a fight between BJP’s Renuka Singh and sitting Congress MLA from Premnagar, Khel Sai Singh.

In another ST reserved seat, Raigarh, the Congress fielded two-time Congress MLA Dharamjaigarh Laljeet Singh Rathiya who was up against BJP’s tribal woman leader Gomtee Sai. The BJP had dropped Union minister of state for steel Vishnudeo Sai, who had won four times from 1999 to 2014 from the Raigarh seat.

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