Battleground Chhattisgarh (3): Voters prefer stability over change

On 25th August, 2000 after the approval of the Reorganization Act 2000 by the President of India, Chhattisgarh came into existence as a separate state. It was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha came in existence on 1st November, 2000 and has 90 elected members. At the time of the creation of the state, Congress had 62 out of 90 MLAs, by virtue of its win in the 1998 elections of Madhya Pradesh. It was called upon to form the government and Ajit Jogi became the first CM of the state.

The first assembly elections of the state were held in 2003. The corruption scandals of Jogi and his son alienated the traditional Congress voter to such an extent that the party was routed. The split in the party with senior leader Vidya Charan Shukla leaving and joining NCP didn’t help Congress. Its tally declined from 62 to 37 while BJP seized power by bagging 50 seats. BSP got 2 and NCP 1 seat. BJP recorded 39.3% vote share while Congress ended up with 36.7%. Raman Singh was elected as a chief minister from BJP. NCP severely dented Congress party’s prospects bagging 7% vote share, higher than the gap of 3% between Congress and BJP.

In 2008, BJP was re-elected, riding on popularity of Raman Singh and development work done by the government. It emerged victorious in 50 seats while Congress could bag only 38. A status quo situation.

Congress embarked on its campaign with the plank of anti-incumbency but forgot to factor in that there is a perceptible link between voter choice and satisfaction with performance. (CSDS) While it tied up with NCP and threatened to oust Raman but factionalism hurt Congress.

In 2013 while Congress was aiming to exploit anti incumbency, BJP recorded its straight third win riding on Modi as well as Raman factor. It was a pretty close shave for the BJP, the vote share gap between BJP and Congress was just 0.7%. Raman Singh registered a hattrick as the chief minister of the state shattering the hope of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi of the Congress who was hopeful of winning the election.

Today Raman Singh holds the record for the longest serving Chief Minister of BJP. His government’s image among the voters as development oriented and his resolve to fight against the red terror has enabled it to fight anti-incumbency. 2018 is going to be an exciting contest, with Ajit Jogi’s party also in the fray. While Congress is trying for an alliance with BSP, BJP hopes split of votes among opposition will sail it through.

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