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BJP pins hope on Bastar and Ajit Jogi to win Chhattisgarh

With a threefold strategy in mind, BJP is turning to tribals in Maoist-dominated areas to win Chhattisgarh.

chhattisgarh elections 2018 Updated: Jun 17, 2018 07:13 IST
Kumar Uttam and Ritesh Mishra
Kumar Uttam and Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Raipur
Ajit Jogi,BJP,Bastar
Ajit Jogi addressing a press conference in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is turning to tribals in seven Chhattisgarh districts under the grip of Maoist rebels and is hoping former chief minister Ajit Jogi will neutralise the impact of a possible tie-up between the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in this year’s assembly election.

In the last assembly election, the BJP won only four of 12 assembly seats in the seven districts of the Bastar region where the Maoists wield influence. It won just one out of eight in the northern district of Surguja.

“We have worked on several development projects in the tribal areas. There will be impact,” chief minister Raman Singh said after ending the first phase of his 2,700-km Vikas Yatra from Dantewada.

The Congress and the BSP are discussing a pre-poll pact to end the 15-year-long uninterrupted rule of the BJP in the state and unseat Singh, the longest serving chief minister of his party. The BSP polled about 560,000 votes in the 2013 assembly election, six times the margin by which the BJP defeated the Congress.

“The BSP, generally, takes about 4-5 % of votes in an election. If the Congress forges an alliance with the BSP, then certainly we will have a different strategy to counter it,” Singh said.

Chhattisgarh has always elected its ruler by a wafer-thin margin that has got thinner with every election. The BJP strategy is threefold, a party functionary in Delhi said. First, mobilise the organization in the seven assembly seats that BJP has never won.

Second, woo the adivasi population of south Chhattisgarh through development projects.

Third, smart distribution of election tickets to neutralize anti-incumbency of BJP legislators, the functionary said. As many as 30 seats witnessed a close fight in 2008. Of these, 20 seats went to the BJP with a margin less than the votes polled by Congress and the BSP-Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) put together. The BSP played the spoiler in eight seats and the GGP in six others. The Congress is in talks with the GGP, which has pockets of influence in tribal-dominated areas.

The BJP won 12 seats and lost six with a margin of less than 5,000 votes. The Congress won five assembly constituencies and lost 13 with a margin of less than 5,000 votes. The challenge in Chhattisgarh is daunting, party insiders admit. They hope former CM and rebel Congress leader AJit Jogi, whose Janta Congress Chhattisgarh will be in the fray this time, will snatch a sizeable chunk of the scheduled caste votes and dent the Congress’ base. Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said a tie-up would prove beneficial. “ If we stitch an alliance with the BSP , it will surely benefit us in central Chhattisgarh , where BSP has its hold. On an average , BSP has about 4% in Chhattisgarh and we believe that it will be helpful to us in forming government,” he said.

“Congress is now irrelevant in the Chhattisgarh. No alliance can save them in the elections. As far as my party is concerned , we will fight in all 90 seats and form the government,” Amit Jogi, son of Ajit Jogi, said. A reaction from the BSP was not immediately available.

First Published: Jun 17, 2018 07:13 IST