ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

What Sealed BJP’s Victory in Chhattisgarh?

Lakhan Choudhary (lakhanchaudhary3@gmail.com) teaches at the Kalyan Post Graduate College Bhilai Nagar, Chhattisgarh.Vibha Attri (vibhaatri@gmail.com) is a researcher at Lokniti–CSDS, Delhi.

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was decimated by the Congress in the assembly polls held in November 2018, bounced back in Chhattisgarh by recording an impressive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. While a strong anti-incumbency sentiment worked against the BJP in the assembly elections, Narendra Modi’s image-building exercise helped the party’s candidates win in the Lok Sabha polls.

 

Decimated by the Congress in the assembly polls held in November 2018, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned stronger by winning nine of the 11 seats in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections in Chhattisgarh. This is not the first time that party performed well in the Lok Sabha elections. In the last three parliamentary elections, the state sent 10 members of Parliament (MPs) from the BJP to the Lok Sabha. What was however new in these elections was that for the first time since it came into being in 2000, Chhattisgarh saw a Lok Sabha verdict different from the assembly poll results. The BJP was able to increase its vote share to 50.7% from 33% in the assembly elections. On the other hand, the Congress vote share stood at 40.9%, a gain of 2.5% from 2014 but down by about 2 percentage points since the 2018 assembly elections (Table 1). Based on the data of the National Election Study (NES) 2019, this article aims to understand and analyse the electoral outcome of the state and looks at the factors that could have made this turnaround possible for the BJP.

Social Basis of Voting

Like in the 2014 general elections, the first-time voters again showed greater enthusiasm in supporting the BJP in these elections. It seems that all the programmes that the party had initiated to attract this group, worked in its favour (Mishra and Negi 2019). Three-fourths of the respondents in the age group of 18–22 years backed the party. This gain is not only 33 percentage points higher than the party’s vote share among this group in 2014, but is also the highest across all age groups. Moreover, this was the only group where the Congress saw a decline of votes since 2014 (Table 2).

Politically, the state has been divided into three parts—north, south and central with the first two being dominated by tribals and central Chhattisgarh by the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) (Saxena 2019: 259). The BJP swept all five seats in the central region with a vote share of close to 54%; it was also successful in three of the four seats in the north and one of the two seats in the southern region of the state.

The BJP increased its vote share among the upper castes by 35 percentage points and 5 and 7 percentage points among the Dalits and OBCs respectively as compared to the previous Lok Sabha elections (Table 3, p 17). Adivasis are numerically the strongest community in Chhattisgarh making up nearly one-third of the state’s population (Saxena and Rai 2009: 126). The BJP appears to have lost support among this group as there was an 8 percentage point fall in the votes from this social segment as compared to 2014. Back then, the BJP won all four Scheduled Tribes (STs) reserved seats, while it managed to retain only three in these elections. The Congress emerged victorious in one unreserved and one ST reserved seat.

An analysis of the results by proportion of ST population in constituencies shows that the majority of the BJP’s victories came from seats having a low ST population (less than 30%). It was victorious in six such seats.

Like in 2014, this time around too, the state defied the national voting pattern in terms of gender. Whereas at the national level, the BJP had a gender disadvantage among women voters, in Chhattisgarh a much greater proportion of women voted for the BJP than men. The party took a lead of 19 percentage points among women (Table 4). A reason for such high support for the BJP could be a result of various women-centric schemes launched by the Narendra Modi government. The data shows that women in the state have benefited from flagship programmes of the government like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Ayushman Bharat Yojana. Under Ujjwala and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the ownership was in the name of the woman of the household. One needs to note that for both Ujjwala and Ayushman Bharat, the proportion of women beneficiaries in the state was much higher than that at the national level. These schemes clearly paid dividends as the party did well among the beneficiaries compared to the non-beneficiaries.

Discontent among farmers in the state was one of the reasons for the poor performance of the BJP in 2018. The Congress took advantage of this and the Bhupesh Baghel government announced loan waiver schemes for the farmers immediately after coming to power (Wire 2018). A much higher proportion of farmers had benefited from the loan waiver scheme of Baghel government compared to central government’s income support scheme (28% vs 8%).

Explaining BJP’s Victory

A prime reason for the BJP’s performance in these elections after a humiliating defeat in assembly elections, lies in the fact that voters in the state assembly elections voted on state issues and hence against the Raman Singh’s government. But in the Lok Sabha elections, the vote was in favour of Modi and not against the Baghel-led Congress government in Chhattisgarh (Deshmane 2019). There was a strong sense of anti-incumbency among the people in 2018. Additionally, the satisfaction level with the Singh’s government had seen a drastic decline from 2013 (81% vs 52%). Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs in the state were found to be dissatisfied with the performance of the ruling government, which explains the spectacular performance of the Congress in the assembly elections (Mishra et al 2018). Another factor that needs to be kept in mind is that Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh party, which had contested the assembly elections in an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party had electorally harmed the BJP more than the Congress.

If three-fourths of the respondents expressed satisfaction with the performance of the recently installed Congress state government, close to eight of every 10 respondents were happy with the work of the central government (Table 5). Also, if one looks at the net extremes (those fully satisfied minus those fully dissatisfied), the net satisfaction with BJP central government as compared to the Congress state government was higher by 17 percentage points. The pre-poll study in the state showed that a higher proportion of voters had stated that while voting in the Lok Sabha elections they will consider the performance of the central government compared to that of the state (31 vis-à-vis 24). This also explains the turnaround towards the BJP.

Strong support for Modi was another favourable factor for the BJP. Five in every 10 voters in the state wanted to see him as the Prime Minister. This number was not only 17 percentage points higher than 2014 but also 22 percentage points higher than the support for Rahul Gandhi, the second preferred person after Modi (Table 6).

 

Data also suggests that BJP voters were almost two times more likely to state the prime ministerial candidate as the most important consideration while voting compared to Congress voters (19% versus 10%). In fact, one in every four BJP voter would have voted differently if Modi had not been the prime ministerial candidate. This figure has almost increased threefold from the previous Lok Sabha elections (from 10% to 28%). In this context, replacing all 10 sitting MPs in the state after the major jolt in assembly elections was a good strategy adopted by the BJP to prepare the state for a new leadership (Singh 2019).

The voters in the state were also satisfied with various decisions taken by the Modi government. Interestingly, three in five voters in the state were of the opinion that demonetisation was an important decision (Table 7). This figure was almost 20 percentage points higher than the national figure. Though a lesser proportion of voters had heard of the air strikes compared to all-India figures, a higher proportion of those who had heard of it, credited Modi for the same. There was also much greater support among the voters in Chhattisgarh on central government’s decision to provide 10% reservation to economically weaker sections.

In contrast to these, the awareness on Rafale fighter aircraft deal was much lower. Nearly three-fourths of the respondents in the state were not aware of it and even among those aware, very few were of the opinion that there has been any wrongdoing by the government. A greater proportion of those who felt that there has been some wrongdoing were still in favour of giving the government another chance than those who were not in favour (40 vs 37). Half of the respondents had heard about the Congress’s Nyuntam Aay Yojana promise but their opinion on whether the party will fulfil this promise if elected to power was evenly split—35% felt it will not and 33% felt it would.

A few trends from Chhattisgarh merit attention. First, this election has further consolidated the bipolar competition in the state. Second, it was for the first time the state witnessed a Lok Sabha verdict different from the assembly poll result. Not one but many factors contributed to this revival of the BJP in the state after its massive defeat in 2018 assembly elections. A strong anti-incumbency worked against BJP in the assembly elections and the visible support for Modi worked for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. Further, the BJP’s decision to drop all sitting MPs in the state to beat anti-incumbency was a strategic move by the party to prepare the state for a new leadership. It must also be stressed that the voters in the state were not only satisfied with the overall performance of the central government but had also benefited from various welfare schemes. Voters showed much higher approval compared to the national average for various decisions taken by the central government in the last five years. The ground workers of the party left no stone unturned in reaching out to the voters.

References

Deshmane, Akshay (2019): “How Did Congress Lose Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh So Badly?” Huffpost, 24 May, https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/how-did-congress-lose-rajasthan-madh..., viewed on 26 June 2019.

Mishra, Jyoti, Vibha Attri and Shamshad Ansari (2018): “How Congress Managed to Win over OBCs in Chhattisgarh,” Outlook, 13 December, https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/outlook-lokniti-csds-electio..., viewed on 24 June 2019.

Mishra, Jyoti and Amrit Negi (2019): “BJP, the Most Preferred Party of Young India,” 29 May, https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/the-most-preferred-par..., viewed on 28 June 2019.

Saxena, Anupama (2019): “Chhattisgarh: A Repetition of BJP’s Performance in 2014,” How India Votes: A State by State Look, Ashutosh Kumar and Yatindra Singh Sisodia (eds), New Delhi: Orient Blackswan Publication.

Saxena, Anupama and Praveen Rai (2009): “Chhattisgarh: An Emphatic Win for the BJP,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 44, No 39, pp 125–27.

Singh, Akhilesh Kumar (2019): “After State Poll Rout, BJP Drops All 10 MPs in Chhattisgrah,” Times of India, 20 March, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/after-state-poll-rout-bjp-drop..., viewed on 23 June 2019.

Wire (2018): “Congress Governments in MP, Chhattisgarh Announce Farm Loan Waivers on Day 1,” 18 December, https://thewire.in/politics/congress-governments-in-mp-chhattisgarh-anno..., viewed on 24 June 2019.

Updated On : 30th Aug, 2019

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top