In the wake of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s unexpected defeat after securing a historic victory in 2018, it is imperative to delve into the multifaceted reasons behind this political upheaval. Contrary to popular assumptions, Baghel’s loss cannot be solely attributed to the dichotomy of soft versus hard Hindutva, as some critics suggest. A nuanced analysis reveals a confluence of factors contributing to this electoral setback.
1. Failure to Uphold Mandated Ideals:
Baghel’s Congress government, which clinched a staggering 68 out of 90 seats in 2018, campaigned on promises of greater devolution of rights to the people and a commitment to the welfare of Adivasis. However, a significant divergence from these professed ideals ensued, eroding the trust of the electorate. Two major movements in Bastar and Surguja, comprising 26 seats with 20 reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), underscored the disillusionment as the Congress could only secure four of these seats in the recent elections.
2. Civil Society Movements as Indicators:
Historically devoid of civil society movements, Chhattisgarh witnessed a shift in recent years with movements emerging in direct opposition to Baghel’s governance. The Adivasi killings in Silger village and the Hasdeo movement against coal mining garnered support from erstwhile Congress supporters, signaling a growing dissent against perceived high-handedness. In these instances, former allies questioned the Congress’s distinction from the BJP, marking a significant shift in public sentiment.
3. Arrogance and Internal Conflicts:
Baghel’s administration displayed signs of hubris and internal strife, contributing to the erosion of public support. The swift rise of Saumya Chaurasia, entrusted with unchecked authority over bureaucracy, led to discontent within the ranks. Baghel’s rivalry with powerful minister TS Singh Deo, culminating in Deo’s narrow loss in Ambikapur, coincided with the party’s failure to secure any seats in the five districts of Surguja division. This internal discord and the perceived arrogance of the ruling party proved detrimental to their electoral prospects.
4. Unmet Expectations and Competitor Alienation:
The populace’s anticipation of a transformed political climate under Baghel’s leadership remained unmet. Competitor alienation, particularly Baghel’s tussle with influential minister TS Singh Deo, resonated negatively with voters. Deo’s defeat in Ambikapur, albeit by a narrow margin, mirrored the broader failure of the Congress to secure any seats in the Surguja division, highlighting the repercussions of internal power struggles.
In conclusion, Bhupesh Baghel’s defeat in Chhattisgarh reflects a complex interplay of unfulfilled promises, civil society mobilization, internal conflicts, and voter disillusionment. It is crucial to move beyond simplistic narratives of Hindutva and recognize the intricate dynamics that shaped this electoral outcome. As the political landscape evolves, Chhattisgarh presents a case study in the intricacies of governance and the delicate balance required to retain the trust of a diverse electorate.