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Fearing Loss of Tribal Vote Bank, Congress Opts for ‘Push OBCs’ Strategy in Chhattisgarh

Many believe that the Congress party, unnerved with ‘sizable’ response to saffron party rallies and public meetings in tribal pockets this year, can’t just rely on the tribal vote bank to make their return to power this time.

Vivek Trivedi | News18.com

Updated:August 13, 2018, 2:14 PM IST
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Fearing Loss of Tribal Vote Bank, Congress Opts for ‘Push OBCs’ Strategy in Chhattisgarh
(Representative image.)
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Raipur: Out of power since 2003, primarily due to erosion in its traditional tribal vote bank, the tattered Congress is eyeing to consolidate OBC support to make a desperate comeback to power in Chhattisgarh.

Demographically, the OBCs are the most dominant class in Chhattisgarh with 52% share in state’s population, while 32% tribals too remain a potent force electorally.

But the Congress in order to make inroads into the dominant OBC community is now banking on its successful experiment in Durg during 2014 general elections, which had prevented a BJP whitewash. Pooling in the majority Sahu (an OBC caste) votes, the Congress, thwarting the robust Modi wave, had managed to defeat an influential and BJP Morcha Mahila president Saroj Pandey by placing the bet on Tamradhwaj Sahu.

Mindful of this successful strategic poll venture, the AICC rewarded and appointed, Tamradhwaj Sahu, the lone sitting Lok Sabha MP from state unit, as the head of its OBC cell in March this year.

The BJP had flayed the appointment of Sahu, calling it a double standard from the Congress. The BJP alleged that Congress was against the Bill to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.

Summing up the Congress strategy, a party leader from Chhattisgarh on condition of anonymity said the party is eyeing OBC votes. In the last elections, the Congress excelled in tribal dominated Bastar and Sarguja, while the BJP swept the SC seats and also took lead in plains where the OBCs are dominant.

Many believe that the Congress party, unnerved with ‘sizable’ response to saffron party rallies and public meetings in tribal pockets this year, can’t just rely on the tribal vote bank to make their return to power this time.

Persisting with ‘push OBCs’ strategy, the Congress had named Lekhram Sahu, an OBC leader, as its Rajya Sabha candidate in March this year.

The voting pattern in Assembly polls post 2003 too endorses this concern.

In 2003, the BJP, which won 50 out of the 90 seats, managed wins at 34 ST-reserved seats pushing the then Ajit Jogi-led Congress out of power. In 2008, the delimitation reduced ST seats to 29 and again the BJP pocketed 19 of the 29 seats.

In 2013, the Congress started to win back its traditional vote bank but still not to an extent to snatch power from the BJP. Out of the 29 ST seats, the Congress had won 18 but its overall tally ended at measly a 39, not enough to unseat the Raman Singh-led BJP from power.

However, ahead of 2018 Assembly polls, the entry of Ajit Jogi with Janata Congress Chhattisgarh has made it a triangular contest in many seats as Jogi, a former bureaucrat, enjoys sizable backing among Dalits and tribals.

His party has already announced Deputy CM posts to leaders from Bastar and Sarguja if it comes to power.

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