As the BJP swept to power, the Congress was reduced to binary scores across the country and performed poorly in Chhattisgarh too, winning only two of the 11 seats. While the Prime Minister’s image was certainly a factor in a state where the BJP changed all 10 of its sitting MPs, many within and outside the Congress believe that five months of party rule have seen a series of mistakes that have exacerbated the problem.
Five months ago, the Congress barely scraped through in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, but in Chhattisgarh it won 68 of 90 seats. In all three previous elections, the party which won the Vidhan sabha elections in December, won the Lok Sabha elections in May. All three times it was the BJP.
After Assembly win, the defeat
WHILE the Congress fared badly nationally, its drubbing in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh -- three states where it had won five months ago -- compounded its defeat. All the three states had announced waiver of farm loans, as promised by Rahul Gandhi during the election campaign. There were other sops which were on the anvil. There were seasoned and experienced leaders at the helm in at least two states -- Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The verdict, despite all this, underlines the challenges ahead, especially in Madhya Pradesh where the Congress does not have majority on its own.
The Congress lost with the highest margin — of over four lakh — in Durg, which is home to three ministers, including CM Bhupesh Baghel. “That is actually the reason why Durg, and even Surguja have been lost. All three were CM candidates, and since then, no relationship building has taken place. Everyone is pulling in solitary directions and there is no sign of collective leadership. In Durg, this margin means neither the Kurmis, with Baghel being a Kurmi leader, or the Sahus voted,” said a senior Congress leader.
If the BJP campaign in the state was single-minded, replacing its old guard with 11 new faces to concentrate on Modi during the campaign, the Congress failed to show political clarity. Its flagship scheme Narwa Gurwa Gharwa Baari has failed to show immediate results, and while the loan waiver may have assuaged some farmers, many believed in a clear national alternative.
“On top of that, there were administrative lapses. Despite them being because of administrative reasons, the BJP used the stoppage of subsidised chana and salt to their advantage in tribal areas… This is clear government laxity,” a senior Congress leader said.
While former CM Raman Singh said this was a vote for Modi, other BJP leaders said that there was a clear two prong strategy. “One was Modi… The other was to highlight… what the Congress has done wrong,” a BJP leader said.