If electoral politics were about pure arithmetic then Raman Singh would have won the Chhattisgarh elections hands down. But politics is as much about chemistry as it is about pure numbers.
The formation of the third front in Chhattisgarh with Ajit Jogi and Mayawati joining hands was widely expected to dent Congress’s prospects in the state.
Jogi, the first CM of the state formed by the division of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, remained the dominant face of the party till last year. He enjoys a strong following amongst the Dalit community residing in rice bowl of Chhattisgarh sandwiched between the tribal belts of Sarguja in the north and Bastar in the south.
This belt is also home to the Backward population and the traditional caste fault lines here tends to polarise polity between OBCs and Satnamis.
The data released by the Election Commission of India shows that Jogi indeed took away almost 9% of the Congress’s vote in the three divisions of Durg, Raipur and Bilaspur. Thereby bringing down Congress’s vote percentage from 40.3% to 31%. This could have dealt an irreparable loss to the Congress in the state which it lost by a margin of less than 0.5% votes in 2013.
But Congress seems to have made up for this deficit by aggressively poaching on the BJP’s traditional backward votes in the state. The latest figures show that Congress could have walked away with almost 8-10% of the BJP’s Sahu-Kurmi and OBC votes in the states and in the process also bring down the BJP’s vote from last elections by almost 9%.
A polarising Jogi’s exit seems to have made Congress more acceptable to the OBCs. The party also experimented to field three dominant faces from the community who were projected as potential CM candidates—Bhupesh Baghel, Tamradhwaj Sahu and Charandas Mahant.
Chhattisgarh elections have generally been a close contest with the winning margins being less than 1%. But with an almost 10% percent lead the Congress has won a two-thirds majority in the state.