Ballot done, ballet in

Changing winds? A record turnout in Bastar has given hope to the Congress that it may win
Changing winds? A record turnout in Bastar has given hope to the Congress that it may win. Photo: AFP

It has been the story of every election in Chhattisgarh since 2003. The stage is set for the BJP to win a landslide, and then slowly, Ajit Jogi asserts himself. It’s never the Congress, mind you, the rush and bustle is all around one man.

The BJP starts with its “beware, the tiger might come back to the village” and “better choose the sevak Raman Singh” campaign, lest the tiger finds a release. Afterwards, if the BJP wins — like it did the last two times — it’s never the Congress, but Jogi alone, who loses.

Now that the polling is over by common consensus, the next fortnight in Raipur has been reserved for pure speculation. After the ballot, it’s time for the ballet.

Expectant bureaucrats, power brokers, businessmen and industrialists all put their heads together to select and reject their chief minister and ministers every day.

“A 1 percent swing can cause a difference of 12 seats,” says Dorab Sopariwala at Sagaun Bungalow in Raipur. The difference between the two parties is exactly that: 1 percent, or about two lakh votes. For 12 years and four major elections, including parliamentary, that has remained constant. Voting percentages have grown from about 60 percent in 2003 to over 76 percent this year, but the difference between the two parties has remained static.

Statistically, it simply shows that the state is vertically split between the two parties and both verticals continue to grow at about the same rate. In real terms, rallies by Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi add nothing to the pot.

As for the BJP, it feels it will win because: a) women have voted in large numbers and will naturally elect the government that gave them and their children food security; b) it was better prepared with foot soldiers; c) it had more funds; d) there was no visible anti-incumbency; and e) it has Modi, and thus, the youth.

The Congress, for its part, fancies its chances because a) Bastar has voted for a change after the dastardly attack on Congress leaders; b) anti-incumbency is at work against all sitting ministers and MLAs even if Raman Singh is relatively free of it; c) it has put up a united front; d) a peaceful pro-Congress poll in Bastar means the Maoists don’t want Narendra Modi at the Centre; and e) it has Rahul, and thus, the youth.

All speculation culminates at Jogi’s doorstep. For the third straight Assembly election, he has been target No 1 for the BJP, which believes that as long as he is alive and kicking, they don’t need to worry. Despite grave opposition from within the state leadership, Jogi has beaten all odds to retain favour with Sonia Gandhi.

Jogi has calculated that the Congress will get 55 out of 90 seats. The BJP camp says he predicts that before every result and so far it has not happened. Ironically, Raman Singh feels that he himself might get 55-60 seats.

The truth is perhaps closer to the halfway mark; whoever wins will rest between 45 and 50.


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