Why Ajit Jogi is the X factor in Chhattisgarh elections?

Among the four major states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana— where polls are underway, the Congress should have had the best chance in Chhattisgarh. It lost the state by the smallest margin in 2013, both in terms of seat share and vote share.

Two factors have cast a doubt on the Congress’s chances, though.

Ajit Jogi, who was appointed the Congress chief minister after the formation of Chhattisgarh in 2000, walked out of the party to launch the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) in 2016.

Jogi has forged a tie up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) in these elections.

Headline vote share numbers show that the combined vote share of the Congress, BSP and CPI exceeded that of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the three Hindi heartland states since 2003.

Does this mean the Congress missed the opportunity to win back Chhattisgarh by not sealing an alliance with the BSP?

Both parties did explore the possibility of such an alliance but nothing came of it.

An earlier HT analysis for Madhya Pradesh showed that headline vote share numbers of the Congress and the BSP were not a good indicator of the prospects of such an alliance.

This was because the BSP contesting alone spoiled the chances of both the Congress and the BJP in many seats.

Extending this analysis for Chhattisgarh shows similar results. The combined vote share of the BSP and the CPI was greater than the victory margin in at least one-fourth of assembly constituencies in the state in the past three elections.

Both the Congress and the BJP suffered equally due to these two parties playing spoiler.

These figures suggest that just a BSP-CPI alliance would not have done much damage to the Congress’s prospects in the state.

What makes the situation complicated and unpredictable is the Jogi factor.

Because his party is contesting the elections for the first time, there is no previous metric of its performance.

Given the fact that he has defected from the Congress, it is more likely that Jogi will eat into the Congress’s votes than the Bharatiya Janata Party’s.

In fact, seat sharing pattern among the three alliance partners supports this argument.

The 55 seats where Jogi’s party is contesting, saw a better performance by the Congress in 2008 and 2013.

Regionally strong leaders jumping ship often spoils the game for parties in the state elections. The BJP paid for it in Karnataka in 2013 when B S Yeddyurappa exited the party.

Even in Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharti’s defection in 2008 cost the BJP in terms of vote share and seat share.

Whether and how much of an impact Ajit Jogi has on the Congress’s support base will be an important determinant of the outcome in Chhattisgarh.

Abhishek Jha is a HT-Mint-How India Lives data fellow

First Published: Nov 15, 2018 08:26 IST

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