Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP’s ‘fresh face’ strategy helps roll back reverses in Chhattisgarh polls

While it was a happy reversal of fortune for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Chhattisgarh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress failed to repeat its success of the 2018 Assembly polls despite chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel pushing several pro-poor and pro-tribal policies in the run-up to the polls.

The results clearly showed that the BJP’s vote bank is intact in the state dominated by tribals and the vote in 2018 Assembly elections was perhaps more against former chief minister Raman Singh, who did not campaign much in the state for Lok Sabha polls, than against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BJP, riding on a Modi wave, was able to wrest control in nine seats out of 11 in the state – just one less than its 2014 tally. “This is a win for democracy and PM Modi. People of Chhattisgarh had trust in Modiji and they have voted against the Congress government, which has ditched the common man,” BJP spokesperson Sachidanand Upasane said.

“The strategy by the BJP to give tickets to fresh faces worked in the state due to which we are leading in nine seats and losing two seats by a very thin margin,” Upasane added.

Raipur-based political analyst Ashok Tomar, while reflecting on the BJP victory in Chhattisgarh, said that the results clearly showed that “Modi voters are intact even after they voted against Raman Singh a few months ago”. Tomar blamed the Congress party for failing to woo the voters “even after desperate attempts by making pro-tribal and pro-poor policies”.

The BJP denied tickets to all its incumbent MPs and fielded fresh faces. Though the BJP state leaders were slightly cagey about the decision, they realised quickly that it has negated the anti-incumbency against the 10 sitting MPs of the party.

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On the other hand, the Congress was relying on the pro-tribal and pro-poor policies which were initiated by the Chhattisgarh government in the last three months. But, the party said, there was a massive Modi wave, which they didn’t see, that was exclusive of the Assembly elections.

“This election was not fought on local reasons. People always see it as Modi versus Rahul, and they voted for Modi. This was the election in which the BJP has no vision, but they won by misleading the people of the country,” said Congress leader RP Singh.

BJP’s state vice president Sunil Soni won by a huge margin from the high-profile Raipur seat against Congress candidate and Raipur mayor Pramod Dubey, while another BJP candidate, Santosh Pandey, defeated Congress’s Bholaram Sahu in the prestigious Rajnandgaon seat.

Out of four seats reserved for Schedule Tribes (ST), the BJP won three (Surguja, Raigarh and Kanker) while Congress only won Bastar. The BJP’s prominent woman leader and former state minister Renuka Singh captured the Surguja seat against sitting Congress MLA Khelsai Singh. Gomtee Sai, the president of Jashpur district panchayat, won the Raigarh seat against sitting MLA Lajeet Singh Rathiya of the Congress.

In Kanker, another ST-reserved seat, BJP’s Mohan Mandavi defeated Congress’s Biresh Thakur. In Janjgir-Champa, BJP’s Guharam Ajgalley, a former member of Parliament, defeated his Congress rival, Ravi Bhardwaj.

The state had recorded 71.48% voter turnout in the 11 Lok Sabha seats – up from 69.54% in 2014 – and polling was held in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23.

First Published:
May 24, 2019 06:18 IST

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