Caste arithmetic to new faces, BJP draws strategy to wrest Chhattisgarh | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Caste arithmetic to new faces, BJP draws strategy to wrest Chhattisgarh

Aug 28, 2023 12:53 AM IST

In 2018, the party’s winning streak ended after being in power for three terms when it managed to win just 15 seats in the assembly

New Delhi Out of power for five years and striving to put together a formidable fight, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping that its strategy of balancing caste and regional aspirations, pitching newer faces, and pivoting the election campaign on issues such as joblessness and corruption will see the party form the government in Chhattisgarh in the elections to pick a new assembly later in the year.

In the list of 21 seats (out of 90) that has been announced well ahead of polls, five candidates are former legislators, five are women, 10 are from the ST community, and one is from the SC community (PTI)
In the list of 21 seats (out of 90) that has been announced well ahead of polls, five candidates are former legislators, five are women, 10 are from the ST community, and one is from the SC community (PTI)

According to people aware of the details, while the campaign is being designed to “corner” the Congress government on a slew of issues, particularly corruption, it is the choice of candidates in key seats — such as Vijay Baghel pitched against his uncle and incumbent chief minister Bhupesh Baghel — that the party hopes will add bite to the electoral battle.

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To be sure, while Vijay Baghel has been declared as the candidate from Patan, there is no confirmation that the CM will contest from the same seat, which he has won three times in the past—except in 2008 when Vijay Baghel got the better of him.

“It will be a challenging electoral battle for the CM as he will have to fight against his nephew who has defeated him in the past. If he does not contest from Patan, or chooses to contest from two seats, then it will send a wrong signal to the voters. Either way, all eyes will be on the Patan seat,” said a senior party functionary who asked not to be named.

The functionary said that the “Baghel vs Baghel” battle will also serve to quell assumptions that the BJP’s state leadership does not have newer and younger faces. Though the party has evaded questions on who the CM face will be, there is speculation that Vijay Baghel, 64, could be one of the frontrunners instead of 70-year-oldRaman Singh, a former three-time CM. State leaders, however, declined to comment on the leadership question, pointing out that the central high command will take a call.

“While a new generation of leaders is ready, the party has ensured that old, seasoned leaders get a chance as well. So, when the first list of candidates was announced for 21 seats, it included former ministers in addition to 16 new faces, leaders who have worked their way up from the panchayat to the zila (district),” said the functionary quoted above.

In the list of 21 seats (out of 90) that has been announced well ahead of polls to ensure a turnaround in the party’s performance in these constituencies, five candidates are former legislators, five are women, 10 are from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community, and 1 is from the Scheduled Caste (SC) community.

“In the previous elections, the BJP’s loss was largely attributed to the resentment among the ST voters. We have made amends by giving leaders from the community more representation, but also ensured that there is representation of OBC (other backward classes) leadership. Both the state president Arun Sao and the leader of the Opposition Narayan Chandel are OBCs,” said a second functionary.

In 2018, the party’s winning streak ended after being in power for three termswhen it managed to win just 15 seats in the assembly. The focus on candidate selection, BJP leaders insisted, will ensure reversal this time. “In Surguja the BJP did not win any seats because there was a perception that TS Singh Deo (Congress leader and deputy CM) would be made CM. In Jagdalpur and Bastar, we won two of the 28 seats because of anger over the procurement price for paddy. This time all these issues have been addressed so, we are expecting a healthy win,” the second functionary said. Earlier this, week, Bhupesh Baghel told PTI that the Congress’s biggest challenge in the state was to fight the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax (I-T) Department rather than the BJP. “There is no challenge to the Congress posed by the BJP in Chhattisgarh, but our biggest challenge is fighting ED and the I-T Department which are acting in an undemocratic manner in the state ahead of assembly polls,” he said.

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    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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