If politics was completely about arithmetic then former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi’s bid to play king a la HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka would have been a plausible scenario in Chhattisgarh, where the BJP won in 2013 with just a 0.71 percent higher vote portion than the Congress.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a component of Ajit Jogi’s third front, got 4.27 percent of the votes in Chhattisgarh last time while the CPI, which is also part of the alliance, got 0.66 percent. Given the math and that the catchment area of the third front is widely also the support base of the Congress, the obvious conclusion is that Jogi will hurt the Congress’s prospects this time.
But politics being not just about numbers, the granular details of this election show that Jogi is likely to damage both the BJP and the Congress.
As head of the newly-formed third force with the BSP and the CPI in Chhattisgarh which includes the Scheduled Caste (SC) voters as his catchment, Jogi’s potential to harm the BJP cannot be underestimated. Besides the BSP’s SC vote, Jogi’s own support base is widely concentrated among the Satnami community in the SC category.
In this article, it is significant that of the ten reserved seats for the SCs, the BJP won nine in 2013. The Congress won only one seat, Masturi, from where the principal opposition party has once again fielded the sitting MLA Dilip Laharia.
In some regions such as the Janjgir Champa district, the BJP faced rebellion from leaders like Vyas Kashyap who has isolated the ruling party and joined hands with the BSP. The seat is currently held by the Congress and Vyas’s presence as the third force does nothing to brighten the ruling party’s prospects in this seat.
Jogi and the BSP are widely influential in Bilaspur, Janjgir Champa and parts of Korba district where the BJP secured the majority of its seats. In Lormi in Bilaspur district, where the BJP’s Tokhan Sahuwon in 2013, the presence of a strong candidate like Dharamjit Singh from the third force is a challenge to the sitting MLA.
At last, the Congress is relieved that Jogi’s potential to sabotage the party from inside has been contained by his coming out as the third force.