While the elections to the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly would be a direct fight between the incumbent Congress and the principal Opposition BJP, four smaller parties or their alliances are likely to make an impact in several seats across the state.
These smaller parties – including the BSP, Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), Janta Congress Chhattisgarh-Jogi (JCC-J), and CPI – are hoping to win such seats or looking to play a role in determining their outcome.
The Congress swept the previous Assembly polls in 2018, bagging 68 seats as against the BJP’s 15 seats. The BJP had then lost power after ruling the state for 15 years over three consecutive terms.
The JCC-J was floated in 2016 by former Congress leader and first Chhattisgarh CM, late Ajit Jogi, which contested the 2018 polls in alliance with the BSP, winning seven seats together. While the JCC-J won five seats with a vote share of 7.61%, the BSP won two seats with a vote share of 3.87%. However, Jogi’s wife Renu is the JCC-J’s only sitting MLA now.
The JCC-J is going solo in this election, with Jogi’s son Amit Jogi leading the party. Amit claims, “Next government will not be formed without us.”
In the 2018 polls, the JCC-J had won three seats in Bilaspur division and one each in Raipur and Durg divisions. The party is said to have eaten into the Congress’s votes leading to the BJP’s victory in five seats – including Rampur, Mungeli, Bilha and Beltara in Bilaspur division and Bhatapara in Raipur division. The JCC-J also got more votes than the victory margin in 13 seats in Bilaspur, Durg and Surguja divisions.
However, the JCC-J and the BSP parted ways for the polls this time even though Amit met Mayawati in Delhi.
The BSP has instead chosen to align with the GGP, a tribal party, which will fight 33 seats with the remaining 57 being contested by the former.
When asked why the BSP did not join hands with the JCC-J, state BSP president Hemant Poyam said the latter became “inactive” following the demise of Ajit Jogi and has stirred into action only during the current election season.
When asked what promises BSP supremo Mayawati has made to people, Poyam said, “BSP does not believe in making promises but in getting work done. She (Mayawai) told people how the poor in Uttar Pradesh benefited during BSP rule. Here (in Chhattisgarh) too there are a lot of natural resources and minerals but the public is not benefiting from it. BSP will work for the rights of the poor, resources will not be handed over to capitalists and there will be no need for people’s migration.”
In the 2018 polls, the BSP won two seats, came runner-up in four seats in Bilaspur division, and polled more votes than the victory margin in five seats, including three in Bilaspur division and two in Bastar division.
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In 2018, the GGP did not win any seats but got 1.73% of vote share. It came second in the Scheduled Tribes (ST)-reserved Pali-Tanhakar seat in Korba, which was won by the Congress. The tribal party also polled more votes than the victory margin in five seats in Surguja and Raipur divisions.
The GGP is confident of winning at least one seat. The party’s state executive president Kuldeep Prajapati said, “We can win Bharatpur-Sonhat where our national general secretary Shyamsingh Markam is contesting. We will give a tough fight in the Surguja tribal belt.” At present, all 14 Assembly seats of Surguja are with the Congress.
The CPI drew a blank in 2018 with just 0.34 % vote share, with the party being concentrated in tribal-dominated Dantewada and Konta seats. This time, senior party leader and ex-MLA Manish Kunjam is pitted against five-time Congress MLA and minister Kawasi Lakhma .