Chhattisgarh: In the name of Ram

The BJP in Chhattisgarh seeks votes in the name of Ram Lalla darshan in Ayodhya as the Congress battles corruption allegations.

Published : Mar 31, 2024 20:42 IST - 5 MINS READ

BJP supporters at a rally in Jagdalpur of Bastar district on March 27.

BJP supporters at a rally in Jagdalpur of Bastar district on March 27. | Photo Credit: PTI

In Chhattisgarh, the ruling BJP is seeking votes in the name of the “Ram Lalla Darshan Scheme”, under which the State government organises free visits to the newly constructed Ram temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

At a recent election rally in Kanker where he sought votes for party candidate Bhojraj Nag, Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai said: “A few days ago, I flagged off a train to Ayodhya from Bilaspur. Now after every week or 10 days, a train carrying Ram devotees from Chhattisgarh will leave for Ayodhya at government expense.”

The scheme was launched in January. The State government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation to ensure security, health, food, and transportation for the beneficiaries of the scheme during their journey.

Also Read | In Chhattisgarh, tribal discontent and unfulfilled promises seal Congress’ fate

Describing Chhattisgarh as the maternal home of Ram, Deo Sai credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the construction of the Ram temple and listed out “Modi ki guarantees”.

“We need to make sure Modi ji gets a third term as Prime Minister for such work,” he said. Nag, who was given the party ticket in Kanker over sitting MP Mohan Mandavi, is known for his aggressive campaigning against Adivasi conversions in the Bastar belt.

The election for the 11 Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh—Janjgir, Korba, Raigarh, Surguja, Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund, Kanker, Durg, Raipur, Bilaspur, and Bastar—will be held in three phases on April 19, April 26, and May 7. The State has 2.05 crore voters, with women marginally outnumbering men.

The BJP is yet to fulfil most of the promises it made when it came to power in the State last year. In this election, the party seems to be banking on “Modi magic” and hopes to mop up all 11 seats. Issues such as inflation and unemployment could benefit the Congress, which has promised initiatives ranging from job creation to women’s empowerment, healthcare, and farmer support under the “Paanch Nyay” and “Pachees Guarantee” schemes.

  • In Chhattisgarh, the ruling BJP is seeking votes in the name of the “Ram Lalla Darshan Scheme”, a scheme offering free visits to the new Ram temple in Ayodhya.
  • The election for the 11 Lok Sabha seats will be held in three phases on April 19, April 26, and May 7.
  • The BJP is yet to fulfil most of the promises it made when it came to power in the State in 2023 and in this election seems to be banking on “Modi magic.

Congress battles allegations of scams and misgovernance

The State unit of the Congress has been battling allegations of scams and misgovernance during its tenure in office, which ended with the last Assembly election. On March 18, former Chief Minister and Congress candidate from Rajnandgaon, Bhupesh Baghel, attended a public meeting at Khuteri. A local Congress leader, Surendra Das Vaishnav, told Baghel from the dais: “Our government was in power for five years; let a party worker stand up here and say that he got even a single piece of work done in these five years.” Although he apologised for sharing his views publicly for want of an opportunity to meet Baghel in person, the Congress expelled Vaishnav for six years, terming his allegations as “baseless”. But the incident has given the ruling BJP enough ammunition.

Baghel was recently named in an FIR registered by the police on the basis of a complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with its investigation into the Mahadev app online betting platform. The issue surfaced in the last Assembly election, and later saw an alleged cash courier, Asim Das, retracting his statement and saying he had never delivered money to Baghel or any other politician, but had been framed.

The Rajnandgaon seat will go to polls on April 26, and the BJP has again started politicising the issue. Baghel has described the inclusion of his name in the ED’s new charge sheet as a “political conspiracy”. Indeed, the ED action is seen as part of a recurrent pattern of crackdowns on opposition leaders across the country.

Despite all this, the result of the general election in Chhattisgarh is not yet a foregone conclusion in favour of the BJP. The State has sprung surprises in the past. In 2019, the BJP won 9 seats, with a vote share of over 50 per cent, even though it had slumped to just 15 seats in the 2018 Assembly election after being in power for three terms. This time around, the BJP seems more focussed on the Korba and Bastar (Scheduled Tribe) constituencies, where the Congress emerged victorious in the last general election.

Another focus area for the BJP is the Janjgir (Scheduled Caste) seat. The BJP won it in 2019 but failed to bag any of the eight Assembly segments in this constituency in 2023.

The BJP secured 54 of the 90 Assembly seats in 2023, even though it contested without a chief ministerial face. It had a vote share of 46.27 per cent. The Congress won 35 seats, with a 42.23 per cent vote share, proving all election predictions wrong. The Congress had pursued a soft-Hindutva line, but the BJP benefited from communal polarisation over alleged conversions of Adivasis, illegal immigrants, “love jehad”, the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and the alleged “disrespect and abuse” of Sanatana Dharma.

Also Read | Can Congress set aside Ram mandir and reclaim its ground by reorganising, reuniting, and refocussing?

The BJP won 17 of the 29 Assembly seats in the tribal areas. After the election, the party gave the State its first tribal Chief Minister.

But the Adivasi population remains stuck between a rock and a hard place. There have been concerns, among other things, over the increasing state repression of Adivasis, the corporate model of development that displaces Adivasi peasants from their lands and forests, the extra-constitutional killings of Adivasi peasants, bogus arrests, forced surrenders, and sexual violence. Any party that addresses these issues might touch a chord.

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