The exit polls for the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections were divided on which party will come to power in the Naxal-affected state that went to polls in two phases in November. The lack of clarity indicates an unsure future for the BJP after 15 years of governing Chhattisgarh, where the Congress has steadily increased its vote share in the past three elections.
Not only did the exit polls predict a possible favourable outcome for the Congress, it also points at the likelihood of the saffron party trying to form a last-minute, post-poll alliance in Chhattisgarh. This is not unlike the attempts of the BJP in Goa and Manipur — after the Congress emerged the single largest party in the two states after the 2017 elections, the BJP forged alliances with regional parties in both states to form the government.
BJP strategists have put their heads together to chalk out their plan to draw in non-Congress legislators in case the results throw up a split verdict.
“In the event the state throws a split verdict, the BJP will be on course to outmanoeuvre the Congress to cobble up a majority in Chhattisgarh on the lines of Goa. The BJP strategists are counting on a couple of legislators who could win from the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) to bolt to the saffron camp to beat the Congress…,” The New Indian Express quoted a party source as saying.
This could prove a little more difficult than the BJP is anticipating as BSP supremo Mayawati has ruled out any possibility of a post-poll tie-up with the saffron front on multiple occasions.
“Where does the question of a post-poll alliance with the Congress or BJP arise when our alliance with Ajit Jogi’s JCC (Janata Congress Chhattisgarh) is fully confident of getting an absolute majority in the state?” she had said.
Since Mayawati and Jogi announced their alliance ahead of the Chhattisgarh elections, along with the Communist Party of India (CPI), there were fears that three together would eat into the already close vote share of the Congress and BJP. With Mayawati’s BSP no longer an option, it would not be surprising to hear reports of sudden defections to the BJP.
Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, himself had said that the only way the BJP could retain power in the state would be to forge an alliance with the BSP, but his JCC had beat them to the punch. This is another clear obstacle in the BJP’s way.
However, one still cannot rule out the possibility of the BSP-JCC-CPI threesome joining hands with the Congress to pull the rug from under the BJP’s feet. Jogi — once a Congress face in Chhattisgarh — has made it clear that the saffron party has been his primary target in the polls as he believes that the Congress is quite marginalised in the central state. For the Congress, too, the BJP is its main rival, at both the state and national level.
It would be significant to note that the Congress had nearly clinched an alliance deal with the BSP before Jogi approached Mayawati and the two formed the third front for the Chhattisgarh elections. But given the similarities in the manifestos released by Jogi’s JCC and the Congress, there could be news of a fresh alliance formed to hit the majority mark in the Assembly and dethrone the BJP.
As a result, the saffron party would be right to fear the four parties coming together to form the government in Chhattisgarh in case the race turns out to be a close one.
The role regional parties such as the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) could play in the poll at the last minute cannot be ruled out with. Before the JCC-BSP-CPI alliance was announced, there were reports that the Congress had been trying to forge an alliance with the GGP for a tie-up, but had been unsuccessful.
At the moment, all possible post-poll alliances are mere speculation. Voters will have their answer on 11 December, when the results of the elections to five states — Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana — will be declared.