“All farm loans will be waived, as we have done in the past, immediately after the Congress returns to power,” promised CM Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh in a repeat of 2018 election promise. It was among the four key promises made by the Congress on which the party has pinned its hope on. The other three are – conducting caste census, procurement of 20 quintals of paddy per acre, and houses for 17.5 lakh people. “We will give many more guarantees,” he has promised.
CM Bhupesh Baghel is the CM Face of the Congress which is contesting all the 90 seats in the state, obviously without any seat sharing arrangement with other political parties in the INDIA alliance, and running the risk of division of anti-BJP votes. AAP has declared its candidates on 45 seats so far, while the Left front 25, which included CPI’s 20 and CPI(M)’s 5. Among other chief contenders, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) led by Amit Jogi has declared 16 candidates so far. BSP and GGP alliance is contesting all 90 seats which included BSP’s 53 and GGP’s 37. In this scenario, division of anti-BJP votes is imminent, and therefore Congress is trying hard to retain its support base, and win the youth voters in its favour.
Elections in the state are scheduled in two phases on November 7, and November 17. Elections on 20 Vidhan Sabha seats are scheduled in the first phase for which the last date for withdrawal of nominations was October 23. Out of these 20, Congress had won 17 and BJP 2 seats in 2018 Vidhan Sabah election while Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) had won only one seat. In the 70 seats which are scheduled for the second phase, Congress had won 51 seats, BJP 13, JCC(J) 4 and BSP 2.
Chhattisgarh is a troubled state due to Naxal movement, and hence, it is the most sensitive state among the five going to poll in November. Even PM Narendra Modi has alleged that the Congress in the state is run by “urban Naxals”. He has also alleged Congress of outsourcing its policies to “urban Naxals”.
To win youth, especially first time voter, the Congress is organising a “voter marathon” in Raipur on October 30. Youth between the age group of 18 and 25 would be participating in the event. The event is considered important since there are 18 lakh first time voters in the state as per the Election Commission. These new voters may influence the outcome of the election.
Congress has said that it fulfilled the 2018 promise and waived agricultural loans worth Rs9270 crore for 18.82 lakh farmers in the state. It should be noted that the promise had contributed to landslide win for the Congress ending the 15-year-old BJP rule in the state. Procurement of 20 quintals of paddy per acre is another promise that is attracting farmers towards the party.
The promise 17.5 lakh homes to homeless is also an attraction for the poor. The Congress has also pitched for party’s promise for caste census so that the deprived communities would be given social justice. BJP says it casteism that PM says is dividing the people creating social disharmony.
BJP on the other hand has no CM face this time, chiefly due to severe infighting in the party. The Central BJP leadership has said that the party is contesting under a collective leadership, on PM Narendra Modi’s name.
Former Chief Minister and BJP leader Raman Singh has criticised the Congress on the loan waiver promise to farmers. He alleged that Congress is giving false promises. However, CM Bhupesh Baghel is far ahead in convincing the farmers, and has already promised to hike the paddy purchase price to Rs3,600 per quintal apart from the promise to waive the farm loans. It should be noted that the Centre’s MSP for paddy for the current season was announced Rs2,183 per quintal.
Addressing a rally on October 24, CM Baghel said his government implemented several schemes for the welfare and support of farmers, which will help the Congress win 75-plus seats in the 90-member House.
BJP in the meantime is trying to whip up communal passion for polarisation of votes on communal lines. The party has alleged corruption under Congress rule.
At the close of the deadline for withdrawal of nomination for the 20 seats in the first phase there are 223 candidates in the fray. The total number of electors in these 20 seats is 40,78,681, comprising 19,93,937 male, 20,84,675 female and 69 third gender. A total of 5,304 polling stations have been set up for the first phase, as per officials. These seats are located in 7 Naxalite-affected districts in Bastar and four other districts. (IPA Service)