How a Party With Single Digit Vote Share Can Decide Chhattisgarh Poll Outcome By Joining Hands With an Untested One
Mayawati's alliance with Ajit Jogi set political circles abuzz, but it seems the BJP was happier with the development.
BSP supremo Mayawati and Janata Congress (Chhatisgarh) president Ajit Jogi during a press conference to announce their alliance in Lucknow. (PTI Photo)
Raipur: BSP supremo Mayawati and Congress rebel Ajit Jogi are both known being adventurous in their politics, but even then, no one expected them to strike a deal for the upcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh.
The tie-up remained a hush-hush affair till the last minute as Mayawati wanted neither the Congress nor the Samajwadi Party to get an inkling of what was in store.
Jointly talking to the media from Lucknow, Mayawati and Jogi declared they have formed an alliance for the year-end election to the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly.
While BSP will contest from 35 seats, Janata Congress would try its luck from the rest of the underdeveloped state. Mayawati also announced that if the coalition comes to power, Jogi would become the CM.
The announcement set political circles abuzz, but in Chattisgarh, it seems the BJP was happier with the development than even the Janata Congress.
Before the announcement, the Congress was trying to build an alliance with the BSP in Chhattisgarh as well as in Madhya Pradesh.
The alliance, then, is a double whammy for the grand old party as with it, Mayawati has sent a clear signal that she won’t back down on her terms when it comes to seat sharing, not in an assembly election and not in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
According to sources, the Congress was only ready to offer BSP five seats in the state. The same day, Mayawati also unilaterally announced candidates to 22 seats in Madhya Pradesh, in what is being seen as yet another negotiating tactic to ensure she gets her fair share.
For Ajit Jogi, the alliance allows him to flex his flex muscle in a poll battle to tell the Congress, as well as the BJP, not to take him lightly.
Forest Minister in Raman Singh’s cabinet, Mahesh Gagda, told News18, “This has exposed the Congress and its tall claim of a united fight against the BJP”.
“So far, Congress was claiming to be the messiah of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe voters. But after Mayawati and Ajit Jogi came together, the Congress will face a stiff competition to attract SC votes and that will help the BJP,” said Gagda, also a senior tribal leader from Bastar.
However, Congress said the alliance would only consolidate its position in helping the party unseat the BJP.
State congress president Bhupesh Baghel said the grass root level party workers were not in favour of any alliance with BSP. “This has also exposed Jogi also as he always wanted to help his friend (Raman Singh),” he said.
AICC in charge of Chhattisgarh, Panna Lal Punia, also dismissed speculation that the alliance will damage Congress prospects, saying “this will not at all affect the prospect of the Congress in the coming assembly election”.
Congress insiders told News18 that the state unit was not inclined to have any alliance with BSP as the gap with the BJP was less than 1 per cent in the 2013 assembly election and the party hopes to mount a more aggressive poll campaign this time. “The anti-incumbency factor is also stronger,” a leader said.
BSP’s past record, however, shows that its vote share could have considerably helped the Congress achieve its aim.
Chhattisgarh was carved out from MP on November 1, 2000, and in the first ever state Assembly election of 2003, the BSP had contested from 54 seats and won two. The party’s vote share was 4.45 per cent.
In the 2008 election, the BSP decided to contest all 90 seats and cornered 6.11 per cent votes and sent two MLAs to the assembly. In 2013, BSP again contested from all 90 seats but the percentage of votes was reduced to 4.27. In the current house of 90 MLAs, BSP has a lone member.
But in a state where the contest has been always head-to-head and the margin of victory was razor thin, this would have been enough to swing fortunes. Ajit Jogi’s political party, on the other hand, is untested as it was formed only in 2016 after he quit Congress.
Another interesting fact is that both Mayawati and Jogi claim to be the messiah of scheduled castes.
Chhattisgarh has 10 seats reserved for SCs, out of which the BJP had won nine last time and the Congress just one. So the alliance could also damage the BJP to some extent.
Apart from this, 29 seats are reserved for tribals and the SC population is over 10 per cent in the other seats. But Jogi also holds some sway over the Muslim and Christian population in over a dozen constituencies in the state. All this would help eat into the Congress vote bank.
The Congress also blames its 15 years in the opposition on Ajit Jogi. He was made the first CM of the state in 2000 by Sonia Gandhi despite not being the most popular choice. Three years later, the BJP defeated the Congress and has been in power since. The state unit blames Jogi’s three-year tenure for the defeat.
Jogi formed his own political party in an attempt to snatch away power from BJP by whipping the sentiment of regional politics and was also trying to counter Congress by bringing together all regional forces like BJD and TSR at the national level. However, his latest venture to have an alliance with BSP is seen as an attempt to play a role at the national stage.
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