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Will the BSP elephant shake hands with Cong to root out Lotus from Chhattisgarh?

June 25, 2018
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Will the BSP elephant shake hands with Cong to root out Lotus from Chhattisgarh?

For representation purposes only. Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

Raipur: With five months left for the Chhattisgarh assembly elections, poll fever seems to have gripped the state. The ruling BJP has targeted 65 seats out of 90, and have called it ‘Mission-65’. The Congress, meanwhile, which has been out of power for the past 15 years, has also started campaigning, and is eyeing 55 seats.
Both parties are organising rallies, meetings and road shows – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Amit Shah and other big names have already done road shows. However, everyone’s eyes are on the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The question on everyone’s mind is whose side the BSP will take. On the lines of what has happened in other states, there is speculation about the coalition of parties. While some BSP leaders are not in favour of a coalition, some believe that even if the elections are contested post-coalition, the situation can change last minute. The BSP, though, is preparing to contest all seats.
Party supremo Mayawati is serious about Chhattisgarh this time. She has appointed five leaders from Uttar Pradesh as Chhattisgarh elections in-charge, who are continuously touring the state. On the other hand, Congress party president in Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel has been busy trying to get the BSP ready for a coalition between the two parties for the past many months. Baghel has offered BSP an alliance on various public forums, but BSP is keeping mum about its plans.
Keshaw Prasad Chandra, the BSP’s only MLA (from Jaijaipur) in the state assembly, says, “Our party has been contesting assembly elections for most seats since becoming a state. There are at least 30 seats where we are in a better position. Initially, there have been discussions on an alliance with Congress, but the final decision will be made by our top leaders.” Former BSP legislator Kamda Jolhe also echoes the same sentiments, saying the decision is left to senior leaders.
The BJP, however, believes that such a coalition will not jeopardize their vote bank. Party president Dharamlal Kaushik, says, “The Congress is weak in its own way, and whoever is weak, has to bring parties together. This party is trying to save itself with coalitions. But the BJP is ready to get 65 seats this time.”
State CM Raman Singh also appears unconcerned with the possibility of a coalition. On the BSP-Congress coalition, he says, “Dashanan may have ten heads, but one Ram is enough.”

‘Alliance will land BJP in trouble’
Political analysts believe that if the Congress-BSP alliance is formed, then problems will arise for the BJP. In the 2013 election, BJP had captured 49 of the 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, and the Congress got 39 seats. One seat was won by the BSP and one by an independent candidate. But the BJP, which is aiming for a fourth consecutive term, knows that this will not be easy, as it managed to win by a very narrow margin – 0.75 per cent votes – in the last elections. In such a situation, if the Congress contests after forming a coalition with the BSP, the road to forming the government again will not be easy for the BJP.
Chhattisgarh has not been a stronghold for the BSP, but in the plains of the state, Dalit votes have always been a deciding factor, and the BSP has always had a good base in these areas. The BSP’s situation can also be assessed by the fact that its founder, Kanshi Ram, fought the first Lok Sabha election of his life in Janjgir-Champa area of Chhattisgarh in 1984. Since then, the BSP has continued to grow steadily in this area.
Although the BSP, which is struggling with the dispersion of votes and the lack of resources, has contested 54 seats once and 90 seats twice, the party never got more than two seats.
In the undivided Madhya Pradesh, then-BSP state president Dauram Ratnakar, got the chance to become MLA three times from Pamgarh. After the formation of Chhattisgarh, the BSP finished in third place with 13 seats – a total of 4.45 per cent votes.
In the 2008 elections, the party again managed to win two seats from Pamgarh and Akaltra, ending up at number three again with 36 seats. This term, the percentage of votes has gone up to 6.11 per cent.
The BSP didn’t perform well in the last elections in 2013. The party lost many party leaders, who left for different reasons, and the BSP could win only one assembly constituency – Jaijaipur. The percentage of votes this year has come down to 4.27 per cent, and the BSP remains at number two in three seats and third place in nine seats.

Slim chance of coalition: experts
Political analysts see the possibility of a Congress-BSP coalition in these seats. Alok Putul, senior journalist and political analyst from Chhattisgarh, says that in the last election, there were at least 11 seats where if the votes gotten by Congress and BSP were added, BJP would have lost with 38 seats, and the Congress-BSP coalition could have won with 51 seats.
Putul says, “Vote percentages from the last elections show that the BJP got 41.04 per cent of the total votes. Congress and BSP got 40.29 and 4.27 per cent, respectively. If there was a coalition, this figure would have been 44.56 per cent.”
However, Putul says that if the history of BSP is looked at, then there are slim chances of such a coalition, but nothing is impossible in politics.