Jogi’s breakaway party a boost for Congress in Chhattisgarh

Kunnathully N Kishore | Dec 24, 2018 | 6 min read


How first Chhattisgarh CM’s breakaway party made a dent in 2018 polls

Ajit Jogi’s departure from Congress and his new party’s alliance with BSP and CPI might just have had more impact on the result than reflected in their seat tally

101Reporters Desk

Bengaluru: Out of all of Congress’ successes in the recent Assembly elections, the one in Chhattisgarh has been the most promising evidence of the electorate’s choice for change. While the party’s winning tally in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh rose slowly on counting day and finally fell a tad short of the halfway mark, Chhattisgarh was a clear victory soon after the results started trickling in early morning on December 11.

The Grand Old Party won on 68 of 90 constituencies, a two-thirds majority, leaving three-time winner BJP with 15 seats and Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) with five seats. The Congress gained 29 seats since the previous state election in 2013, that too on a vote share of 43 percent, just 3 percent higher than earlier (40.29 percent).

Gaining 29 seats with a 3 percent spike in vote share was possible for the Congress only because the voters seeking change practised a third choice, entrusting the JCC-BSP-CPI combine.   

Analysing the verdict

Jogi, the first CM of Chhattisgarh and a former Congressman, was believed to have given some sleepless nights to the Congress and the BJP once he announced the third front joining the fray under his leadership. Breaking down the 2018 Assembly results, it appears the coalition might just have involuntarily helped the Grand Old Party return to power with a thumping majority.

Going by the data from 2013, the difference in vote share between the Congress and the BJP then was 0.75 percent, while this time it is 10 percent. The BJP got 33 percent (down from 41.04% in 2013) of the votes this year but won only 15 seats while the JCC-BSP-CPI alliance took away about 12 percent of the vote share, which translated into seven seats (5 JCC + 2 BSP).

The question is, what caused the 10 percent vote swing from the BJP to the Congress? Did the third front hurt the BJP’s chances? It must also be pointed out that on many seats, the option of None of The Above (NOTA) played spoiler, garnering a total vote share of 2 percent, while there are Congress seats where the JCC coalition candidate’s votes are more than the BJP candidate’s losing margin.

Again, tribal leader Jogi was expected to influence the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe votes but it turns out that the Congress won the maximum of such seats, mainly concentrated in the Bastar and Sarguja tribal belts, where the party made a clean sweep.

Differing views

Former Chhattisgarh state election commissioner Dr Sushil Trivedi pointed out: “In 2003, it was Vidya Charan Shukla [who switched loyalties] who co-founded the regional party Jan Morcha, garnering 7 percent votes, and in 2018, first state CM Ajit Jogi constituted a regional party, which garnered 7.6 percent votes to change the whole election scenario in Chhattisgarh.”

He opined that Jogi contributed to the defeat of the BJP but did not cause the massive wipe out.

JCC media chairman Iqbal Ahmed Rizvi noted: “Our party candidates have been placed in second, third and fourth positions. We conducted our survey, and we found that most of the party workers in remote areas, believing that Ajit Jogi is still in Congress, had voted for the hand symbol. As a party, we feel that we failed to take our symbol towards remote areas, otherwise the result could be different and we could have played the role of kingmaker by winning about 15 seats.”

BJP spokespersons for Chhattisgarh, Sachchidanand Upasane and Sanjay Shrivastava, both stated that since the election analysis has not been carried out yet by their party, they would not be able to comment on whether the JCC impacted their vote share or not. Shrivastava said, “One point [of analysis] will be the impact of Janta Congress Chhattisgarh. The total study on different aspects will only reveal.”

Apart from the BJP, the BSP turned out to be the other loser in Chhattisgarh due to the alliance, as its 3.9 percent vote share in 2013 plummeted to 0.5 percent this time.

The JCC has been a formidable competitor in Chhattisgarh elections this year, establishing itself as a force and significantly impacting the outcome of future elections in the state. In most cases, Ajit Jogi-led party has eaten into the BJP’s vote share, diminishing or eliminating their chances of winning. This, by default, worked well for the Congress.

Below is the vote breakup of a few Assembly constituencies of the tribal state, reflecting how the JCC made a dent in the Congress’s vote share.

Balodabazar: In 2013, Congress’ Janak Ram Verma had won by a margin of 9,977 votes against BJP’s Laxmi Baghel. In 2018, JCC’s Pramod Kumar Sharma won with 65,251 votes, against Congress’ Verma and BJP’s Resu Lal Dhurandhar, who polled 63,122 and 48,808 votes respectively. Congress lost the seat by just 2,129 votes.

Takhatpur: This seat was won in 2013 by BJP’s Raju Singh Kshatri, who had won against Congress’ Ashish Singh Thakur by a margin of 608 votes. In 2018, it was a close contest again. While Congress’s Rashmi Singh won the seat with 52,616 votes, JCC’s Santosh Kaushik got 49,625 votes, just 4,003 votes more than BJP’s Harshita Pandey, who came in third.

Khairagarh: The 2013 election was a close contest between the Congress and the BJP; the latter’s Komal Janghel had lost the seat by only 2,190 votes to Girwar Janghel, who had won with 70,133 votes. In 2018, Komal Janghel’s vote share reduced from 67,943 to 60,646 votes as she lost the seat to JCC’s Devwrat Singh by a margin of 870 votes. Congress finished third, with Girwar Janghel winning 31,811 votes, less than half his 2013 tally.

Marwahi: Former Congress leader and current head of JCC, Ajit Jogi, maintained his stronghold over Marwahi seat. In 2013, he had won against BJP’s Samira Paikra by 46,250 votes. This time, Jogi won the seat by a similar margin of 46,462 votes against BJP’s Archana Porte, who got 27,579 votes. Congress’ Gulab Singh Raj came even further down the ladder, with 20,040 votes.

Durg City: Both 2013 and 2018 were a close call for the BJP here, losing both times with a narrow margin. In 2013, BJP’s Hemchand Yadav had polled 53,024 votes while Congress’ Arun Vora had won with 58,645 votes. Vora won the seat again in 2018, polling 64,981 votes, against BJP’s Chandrika Chandrakar, who secured 43,900 votes. JCC’s Pratap Madhyani bit into the BJP’s chunk, claiming 20,634 votes.

How far the JCC reaches across the state by the next Assembly polls will be reflected in the performance of their five legislators elected to the 2018 Assembly.

-With inputs from KN Kishore

(101Reporters is a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

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