In the last stretch of campaigning before the second and final phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly election, Union Home Minister Amit Shah highlighted the accusations of appeasement and corruption against the State government, while former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi highlighted his party’s election promises, comparing them to the BJP’s.
Both leaders held public meetings in a final bid to hammer their messages home, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the campaign on social media, predicting a crushing defeat for the incumbent Congress in a long post on X (formerly Twitter).
Contrasting poll promises
Mr. Gandhi squeezed in two rallies, at Bemetara and Baloda Bazar, highlighting his party’s pledge to conduct a caste census. He outlined the contrast between “Congress ki guarantees” for the welfare of the poor, versus “Modi ki guarantees”, which he claimed were only for industralist Gautam Adani, alleging that the PM had handed over all of the country’s important assets to him. “Modi’s guarantees are for Adani only and whatever he does, he does it for people like Adani,” Mr. Gandhi said.
In the tribal dominant state, the Congress campaign largely centred on other backward class (OBC) politics. In his rally speech, Mr. Gandhi’s spent the majority of his time explaining the need for a country-wide caste-census and reiterated that one of the first steps that Congress government would take if it returned to power was to hold a caste survey in Chhattisgarh. “It will be an historic decision, a revolutionary step… it will change the face of the country,” he said.
‘Baghel will sign again’
Referring to the party’s promise of a farm loan waiver, Mr. Gandhi also dropped what is being interpreted as a subtle hint that the Congress leadership will repose its faith in Mr. Baghel again in the event of another victory.
“Baghel ji, you may recall that I had said, the first decision, the first signature of the Chief Minister would be on the loan waiver file. And you signed on that file and lakhs of farmers were benefitted, Chhattisgarh was benefitted. I am saying this again from the stage, that you will have to sign again, you will have to waive the loans again,” said Mr. Gandhi.
The party witnessed a tussle for power after winning the 2018 elections and during the government’s tenure, and has focussed on collective leadership during the campaign. Mr. Baghel, himself, has been tightlipped about his future prospects but often uses his signature phrase “Kaka zinda hai (Uncle is alive)“ in his campaign speeches. Kaka or uncle is a moniker commonly used for Mr. Baghel.
Mr. Gandhi also reminded voters of the Congress’ promise to give women ₹15,000 annually under its promised Grah Lakshmi Scheme. The scheme – seen as a counter to the BJP’s Mahtari Vandan Yojana that promises ₹12,000 a year to married woman – is a late entrant to the campaign, with the Congress announcing it only on Diwali, November 12.
Stoking fears of love jihad
Holding a rally in Saja, a constituency where the BJP has fielded the father of a young man who died in a communal clash a few months ago, Mr. Shah accused the State government of indulging in appeasement and corruption.
Pitching for a turnaround on November 17, the Home Minister said that under the rule of Bhupesh Kaka, Bemetara [Saja is a part of Bemetara district] had become a centre of love jihad. He added that the daughters of the Sahu community, Lodhi community (both OBC castes), and Gond community (a prominent tribe of Chhattisgarh) were their targets.
Describing the BJP candidate Ishwar Sahu as not only a candidate, but as “a symbol of the fight for justice”, Mr. Shah pledged that his family would receive justice when the BJP comes to power.
“During the rule of Bhupesh Kaka, communal elements in Biranpur hacked to death Bhuneshwar Sahu, son of Bhai Ishwar Sahu,” he said.
‘Will hang embezzlers’
Referring to the various alleged scams in the State, including the Mahadev App scam, Mr. Shah alleged that if the BJP came to power, it would hang all those who embezzled money upside down. “Bhupesh Kaka did not spare even cow dung in the Gauthan scam. In this too, thousands of crores of rupees have been lost by Bhupesh Kaka through corruption,” he said.
Earlier, the PM also raised the issue of corruption on X. “Congress’s crushing defeat in this election is certain. People are trusting the good governance of BJP and not the empty promises of Congress. BJP is determined and committed to fulfill its every resolution,” his post read.
Seventy seats of the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly go to the polls on November 17. The electoral fate of many prominent candidates, including the CM, his deputy T.S. SIngh Deo, and BJP State president Arun Sao will be determined in this phase.