Chhattisgarh assembly election 2018: Ajit Jogi may dampen Congress, BJP chances in Surguja
Former chief minister Ajit Jogi may, tilt the balance in the region in the second and final phase of polling on November 20 in which a total of 72 seats are up for grabs.Updated: Nov 18, 2018 09:43 IST
A keen battle is on the cards for 14 assembly seats in the Surguja region, which could prove to be a deciding factor the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Chhattisgarh. Former chief minister Ajit Jogi may, however, tilt the balance in the region in the second and final phase of polling on November 20 in which a total of 72 seats are up for grabs.
Both Congress and the BJP, which won seven seats each from the region in the 2013 assembly polls, are confident of increasing their tally. Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress (CJC) is also eyeing a few seats in Surguja, betting on tribal voters who are considered loyalists of the former chief minister, who left the Congress in 2016 to form his own party.
The region holds importance for both the BJP and the Congress. Two ministers in the Raman Singh government—labour minister Bhaiyalal Rajwade and home minister Ramsewak Paikara—and leader of the opposition in legislative assembly, TS Singheo, are from this region. Jogi, on the other hand, has not lost from the region since the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.
In Surguja, the three tribal communities—Gond ,Kanwar and Uraon—constitute about 45% of the population and other backward classes (OBCs) 40%, makes them a force to reckon with. While Gond and Uraon voters, who are mostly Christians, have traditionally supported the Congress because of Jogi, who claims to be tribal,the Kanwar community has been with the BJP. Among OBCs, Sahu and Kurmi are the majority castes . While Sahus have been BJP supporters, the Kurmis have backed the Congress.
Raipur-based political commentator Ashok Tomar said caste plays an important role in Surguja and it is clear from the ticket distribution pattern. Twenty-six Sahu candidates are in the fray, 14 of them fielded by the BJP and seven by Congress. “There is certain anti-incumbency against the sitting legislators and the BJP is wary of their chances,” Tomar said, giving an edge to the Congress this time. He said the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) may get some votes in some seats dominated by Gond tribals, but many not have any major impact.
The BJP is not taking any chances. It got Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanth, among other top leaders, to the region to campaign for the party. The BJP started its campaign almost two months ago with most of the top leaders, including national president Amit Shah, camping in Ambikapur for a few days.
Though the Congress started its campaign late, it has got party president Rahul Gandhi and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to address rallies. “As part of our strategy, we decided to focus on Surguja near to the polling,” said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
All three parties -- Congress, BJP and CJC -- say their chances in the region are bright.
“We will win more than 10 seats from Surguja because of the development work we have done,” said Anil Singh, one of the BJP persons overseeing the party in Surguja.
Congress’ T S Singhdeo , who is the leader of the opposition in the assembly, says: “We hope to win a dozen seats in Surguja and Jashpur region, which will give us a decisive edge over the BJP.”
Amit Jogi, Ajit Jogi’s son, says he is sure the CJC- Bahujan Samaj Party alliance would win about 10 seats.