Battleground Chhattisgarh (1) – Has Raman Singh Silently Worked His Way To A Fourth Term As Chief Minister?

As per a recent opinion poll by IBC24, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) is set to retain Chhattisgarh under the leadership of Dr Raman Singh by bagging 48 seats. Congress is expected to win 34, while Ajit Jogi’s Congress, 5 seats. While Congress is claiming to overthrow the BJP government, it looks ill prepared to do so.

Popularity ratings of leaders

The Chief Minister remains the most popular leader with 44 per cent popularity ratings. In recent history, leadership ratings have been a key determinant of election results across states.

The party whose leader gets the highest votes for ‘who is best suited to be CM’ normally goes on to win the elections. In Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh was leading the pack. In 2016, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa won in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively. In Delhi, Kejriwal led-Aam Aadmi Party trounced the BJP in 2015, In Bihar, Nitish was more popular than even Modi.

The Congress doesn’t have a leader of the stature of Raman Singh. Even on a combined basis, Congress leaders T S Singh Deo and Bhupesh Baghel, enjoy the support of only 30 per cent of voters, one-third less than Raman Singh.

Raman Singh is the tallest leader of the BJP in the state. Even during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Modi factor was least visible in Chhattisgarh. Where across India 27 per cent public would not have voted for BJP had Modi not been the PM candidate, in the state, the number was just 10 per cent.


Development Track Record

The Congress party moved a no-confidence motion against the Raman Singh government in December 2017 which was defeated by a count of 48-38 votes. The Congress came out with a 168 point charge-sheet which seemed to, in fact, highlight the party’s ignorance about the issues faced by the people of the state and how it is out of sync with the realities.

Congress has alleged that there is an undeclared financial crisis in the state. Independent rating agency CRISIL rated 16 big states of India on 3 parameters of gross domestic product (GDP) growth, inflation and fiscal position for the five year period from 2013-2017. Chhattisgarh has attained the fourth rank overall only below Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The state has recorded an average GDP growth of 7.2 per cent which is higher than the all India GDP growth of 6.9 per cent. With the lowest debt to GDP ratio of around 16 per cent and a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 3 per cent, the state tops the charts in terms of fiscal performance.

Chhattisgarh has been constantly running a revenue account surplus and has significantly improved its development expenditure from 18 per cent in fiscal year (FY) 2013 to around 33 per cent in FY 2017. The per capita income of the state has increased from Rs 52,689 in FY 2013 to Rs 78,001 in FY 2017.

The state has recorded the second highest growth in aggregate gross value added (GVA) of labour intensive sectors – 10.6 per cent versus the all India growth of 7.1 per cent. The share of manufacturing in state’s total GVA has increased from 16.4 per cent in FY 2012 to 22.6 per cent in FY 2016, hinting faster industrialisation. Chhattisgarh is among the top-performing states in manufacturing GVA growth as well as GVA growth of trade, transportation and communication services.

Triangular Contest

The infighting within the Congress had led to Ajit Jogi leaving the party and forming his own Janata Congress Chhattisgarh. Jogi is still the tallest Congress leader, evident from his ratings, higher than that of both Sing Deo and Baghel. The triangular contest is likely to benefit the BJP. Ajit Jogi is expected to wean away a section of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) votes of the Congress thus making a dent in its core vote bank. There are 29 reserved seats for scheduled tribes in the assembly and the Congress won majority of these seats (18) in the 2013 elections. There are 35 seats where the ST population is greater than 40 per cent. Out of these, the Congress won 22 and the BJP 13 in 2013 polls.

STs account for 32 per cent of population in Chhattisgarh and will play a key role in deciding who wins the elections. The ST-dominated seats are the only ones where the Congress received more vote share than the BJP. A loss of votes here would seriously jeopardise the Congress party’s chances in the 2018 state polls. The anti-incumbency votes will split between the Congress and Jogi Congress helping the BJP.

To conclude, the Congress is harping on non-issues highlighting they are out of touch with the real situation on the ground. That is the reason why they have not been able to provide a viable alternative to the Raman Singh government. Additionally, the infighting among the top leaders of the state and the exit of Ajit Jogi indicates that Raman Singh is a favourite to return as chief minister of the state for the fourth consecutive time, unless Congress pulls up its socks and sorts out its problems.


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