With the countdown for the first phase of voting beginning, a sense of uncertainty and anxiety seems to have swept the war rooms of political parties in restive Bastar as people showing no signs of enthusiasm to the faces being fielded once again.
Faced with an anti-incumbency feeling across the restive southern Chhattisgarh both ruling BJP and the principle opposition party Congress are finding it difficult to woo the swing voters to their side as fence sitters have not hinted at their choice so far.
Now with merely 9 days to go for the D-day, parties are finding it extremely scarce to overcome the unprecedented surge in number of indecisive voters. While traversing through the interiors of Jagadalpur assembly constituency, ‘The Statesman’ tried to engage the voters in conversation about the upcoming polls, they gave a blank expression and stared at their lush paddy fields surrounded by the thick ‘Saal’ forests.
The reason, cites Sukumar Das, an East Bengal refugee settled in Bakawand, is the repetition of some faces who grew unpopular for their inaction. “We were expecting new faces to hand over the reigns of the troubled waters in Bastar as there has been a sense of resentment set in against our existing representatives”, quipped a young tribal Somaru.
Infrastructural woes, a major cause of resentment in the naxal infested region during a long Congress rule has outlived its utility, since Raman Singh led saffron dispensation has fast-tracked the developmental projects. But a string of other serious challenges have emerged since then.
Raman Singh still remains the best bet BJP ever had for his acclaimed Public Distribution System and a sense of fondness for him is visible across the densely forested region. The popularity of other BJP MLAs has plummeted due to rising influence of touts, traders and sycophants around them. Their connect with the people has miserably shrunk during the 15 year rule.
Grassroot level party workers and RSS cadre seems to be frustrated with the elected leader’s growing indifference towards the real issues. Corruption and government’s antipathy to the grievance redressal is another crisis looming large in this election. Headstrong bureaucracy has further exacerbated the woes ruling party has been facing this time, Congress leader Bhujit Doshi chuckled.
The BJP’s famed precision in micro managing the electioneering through its vast organisation also seems to be worn out and it is faced with the ire of its reluctant cadre. In more than Eighty km motor cycle ride in remote villages of Bastar, ‘The statesman’ never came across a single party worker canvassing for the party.
Parties have, however, sensed the headwinds troubling them in a water tight contest in this hilly terrain and BJP has come up with an olive branch. Extensive social media campaign and hoardings put up by the saffron party are trying to pacify the frayed tempers of its cadre. One such hoarding by the saffron party reads “Pratyaashi chahe koi bhi ho, vote BJP ko den (Vote for the BJP, whosoever the candidate may be).”
On the other side beleaguered Congress has its own set of challenges as it has eight incumbent MLAs out of 12 seats in Bastar. Party has repeated all its existing MLAs. Party brass had to bite the nails in coaxing Chhavindra Karma son of Dantewada MLA Devti Karma to bar him from contesting against his mother. Devti was elected on a Congress ticket after Maoist ultras assassinated her husband and ‘Salwa Judum’ leader Mahendra Karma in one of the deadliest Naxalites ambush at Jhirum Ghati in May 2013.
Jagdalpur MLA Santosh Bafna has been caught in fierce battle amidst the sulking Sangh parivar cadre turning their backs on the rich Marwari trader-turned-politician.