So, the recent crash of Congress fortunes in Assam and 3 other states caused all round panic in Delhi TV studios, leading to huge headlines trashing the Dynasty in a way they didn’t even dare to do after May 2014. Clearly, something has snapped somewhere and Mameluks sense that their lifetime investments in the Congress party may be under threat. From piling on Rahul Gandhi to feverishly talking about “Congress mukt Bharat”, the current round of headlines couldn’t be more pleasing for our eyes.
But we have to remember that headlines aren’t reality. Especially headlines created by low IQ Dynastycrooks who are currently in panic mode. So, before we are seduced by them into a comforting illusion, we must evaluate our position carefully with respect to the goal of Congress mukt Bharat.
It is in this regard that Chhattisgarh becomes supremely important. With the possible rise of Congress fortunes in Punjab hit hard by the presence of AAP, the state that I most think about these days is Chhattisgarh. Can the BJP win Chhattisgarh again in 2018? The result of Chhattisgarh will be magnified especially by the fact that the state goes to polls barely 6 months before the LS 2019 elections, along with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
If you want to know why I am totally sure about winning Rajasthan, see my old article here.
And Congress wont recover any time soon in Madhya Pradesh. So, it’s all about Chhattisgarh.
On paper, Chhattisgarh is poised in a very risky situation. In the 2013 polls, the BJP’s vote share exceeded the Congress merely by 0.4%!!! Going by traditional wisdom, the state should be ripe for the Congress to pick up in 2018, with Raman Singh straddled with 3 term incumbency.
But this is where I think that stuff gets really interesting. The BJP can’t possibly win Chhattisgarh in 2018 in the “traditional way”. The state can only be saved by some smart realpolitik. In fact, the BJP saved Chhattisgarh in 2013 itself with some masterstrokes of realpolitik…what with a small party mysteriously appearing in the state a few months before the elections with lots of funds and lots of helicopters only to disappear the day after the results..a vote cutter that made the Congress lose as many as 8 seats in 2013 🙂
So, what are the BJP’s options for 2018 in Chhattisgarh? The key is of course the old fox Ajit Jogi. Jogi is really the only mass leader that Congress has in the state and there is no way Congress can win without him. Jogi wants the Congress to project him as Chief Minister, which is simply not going to happen since Madam herself is absolutely furious with Ajit Jogi. His son Amit Jogi has been kicked out of the party by Rahul Gandhi himself for “fixing” elections with the BJP. There can hardly be any doubt that Jogi fixes elections …the prime example being the Antagarh bypoll in 2014, when the Congress candidate simply withdrew his candidature, giving BJP a walkover. Tapes later surfaced of Amit Jogi fixing the whole thing with Raman Singh’s aides…which led to Amit Jogi being kicked out of the Congress. But, Ajit Jogi always plays dirty and the dirt never seems to affect him…
Otherwise Ajit Jogi’s career would have ended long ago, when Congress lost the polls to BJP in the 2003 Chhattisgarh poll by a 37-50 margin and BJP leader Baliram Kashyap (now departed) brought forth tapes of Jogi offering cash to defect to the Congress…
There is an interesting side note here that speaks of how many opportunities the Vajpayee government missed. In that infamous phone conversation with Ajit Jogi , there is this key episode:
Yes, he took Queen Agusta’s name and offered to have Baliram Kashyap speak to her directly…
Understandably, this part of the transcript with Queen Agusta’s name is hard to find online 🙂
Okay, well coming back to the present….the BJP’s challenge in 2018 is to use Jogi to keep the Congress out of power. Jogi has a great equation with Raman Singh and he wont be averse to another term for the BJP unless Congress projects him as CM. And there’s no way the Congress can win without Jogi.
The second trick for the BJP is to get the Congress out hit wicket while it is trying to hit a sixer. Chhattisgarh is like Gujarat in many ways. BJP keeps winning in both states, but there is an “internal resonance structure” in the victory… in other words, it comes to power by winning different areas each time within the state. So there is anti-incumbency and a ton of sitting MLAs lose, but the BJP wins seats in other parts and makes up the deficit. In 2008, the BJP had swept Bastar’s seats and so in 2013, the Congress focused all its energy on winning back Bastar. It worked and the Congress swept Bastar in 2013…only to realize that it had forgotten Central Chhattisgarh where all its sitting MLAs lost. Although the Congress hit the ball across the boundary, they discovered to their horror that their bat had also clipped the bails off…out hit wicket 🙂 🙂 🙂
So, in 2018, the BJP’s target should be Bastar. Let the Congress chase Central Chhattisgarh this time 🙂 🙂 There are a lot of urban seats over there in which BJP wont lose too much. If they gain 7 seats in Bastar, they will win the state again!
In fact, this “resonance model” is how Modi used to win Gujarat too. In 2002, Modi lost seats in Saurashtra, in Kutch, in South Gujarat etc. but won because he swept the central tribal region of Gujarat. Then, in 2007, he did very poorly in Central Gujarat but won because he swept Saurashtra 🙂 In 2012, he lost out in Saurashtra, but by then he had gone back to winning all the Congress strongholds in North Gujarat 🙂
The final card in 2018 for BJP in Chhattisgarh is Modi himself. Indeed, if you remember, elections to Chhattisgarh’s 18 tribal seats happened in the 1st phase of polls on Nov 11, 2013. I remember that evening like yesterday, furiously looking through local media or any inputs to find good news… There was none. It was pretty clear that BJP was losing. It was do or die for BJP in the second phase for 72 seats on Nov 18. In just about 5 days, Modi and Raman Singh scripted a remarkable turnaround. Modi was given pride of place in BJP’s posters and the two men carpet bombed Central Chhattisgarh with rallies… It paid off handsomely with the Congress losing almost all its incumbent seats in the area. Modi makes a difference in Chhattisgarh and it is for BJP to make it count.
In fact, the BJP’s Central leadership has always been more popular in the sister states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh than the local leadership. While BJP has traditionally dominated both state assemblies, its Lok Sabha margins were always much bigger. While BJP led Chhattisgarh by just 0.4% in the Assembly poll, its lead was closer to 10% in the LS poll. This is not a 2014 phenomenon, the same happened in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Each time BJP swept the Lok Sabha seats with a massive margin despite only barely eeking out an Assembly win.
Yes, Raman Singh will need a lot of luck and strategy to win in 2018. But he knows how to work the levers of power in Chhattisgarh…
Anyways…writing this post took me well down memory lane…back to the days of college …back to the time when I would see election results on Rediff…LOL. There has always been something about Chhattisgarh elections that makes me nostalgic…
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