RAIPUR, Dec 8: All eight candidates from the Brahmin community fielded by the Congress suffered defeat in the just-concluded Chhattisgarh assembly elections amid a strong pitch for a caste-based census made by the party during the campaigning.
Thirteen of the 15 Congress candidates from privileged castes, including those from the Brahmin community, lost the polls, while all three party nominees from a minority social group were also trounced.
According to political analysts, the Congress attempt to woo Other Backward Classes (OBC) in Chhattisgarh with a caste census and other pre-poll promises seems to have adversely affected electoral prospects of its “upper caste” candidates and also in seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes.
A majority of voters may not have liked the Bhupesh Baghel-led government’s pro-OBC politics, they maintained.
The ruling Congress suffered a shock defeat in the November assembly elections, which saw the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making a stunning comeback to power by bagging 54 of the 90 seats. The Congress, which won 68 assembly seats in 2018, was reduced to 35 seats, while the regional Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) managed to win in one segment.
The Congress had fielded candidates from “upper castes” in 15 of the total 90 seats this time. However, 13 of them, including eight from the Brahmin community, bit the dust.
Deputy Chief Minister in the outgoing Congress government, TS Singh Deo, his cabinet colleagues Ravindra Choubey and Jai Singh Agrawal, senior MLAs Amitesh Shukla and Arun Vora were among these 13 losing candidates.
Only two Congress candidates from privileged castes — Raghvendra Singh and Atal Shrivastav –managed to win.
Raghvendra Singh defeated his uncle and sitting BJP MLA Saurabh Singh in Akaltara (Janjgir-Champa district) by a margin of 22,758 votes. Similarly, Shrivastav defeated BJP candidate Prabal Pratap Judev, a scion of the erstwhile royal Judev family, in Kota by a margin of 7,957 votes.
Three-term MLA and outgoing Deputy CM Singh Deo faced unexpected defeat at the hands of BJP nominee Rajesh Agrawal in Ambikapur by a margin of 94 votes.
Three-term MLA and outgoing minister Jai Singh Agrawal lost his Korba seat to BJP’s Lakhanlal Dewangan by a margin of 25,629 votes.
Eight Congress candidates from the Brahmin community who were trounced were: Ravindra Choubey (Saja), Amitesh Shukla (Rajim), Mahant Ramsundar Das (Raipur City South), Vikas Upadhyay (Raipur City West), Arun Vora (Durg City), Pankaj Sharma (Raipur Rural), Shailesh Pandey (Bilaspur) and Shailesh Nitin Trivedi (Balodabazar).
Seven-term MLA and outgoing minister Choubey was trounced by BJP’s Ishwar Sahu, a villager, in the Saja seat by a margin of 5,196 votes.
Ishwar Sahu’s son Bhuneshwar Sahu was killed in communal violence that rocked Biranpur village under the Saja assembly segment (Bemetara district) in April this year. Top BJP leaders raked up the issue in electioneering and sought justice for Ishwar Sahu.
Former minister Amitesh Shukla, son of CM of undivided Madhya Pradesh Shyama Charan Shukla, lost his Rajim seat to BJP’s Rohit Sahu by a margin of 11,911 votes.
Three-term Congress MLA Arun Vora, son of another chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh Motilal Vora, suffered defeat at the hands of BJP’s Gajendra Yadav by a gap of 48,697 votes in Durg City.
The Congress had also fielded three candidates from a minority community- outgoing minister Mohammad Akbar (Kawardha) and sitting MLAs Kuldeep Juneja (Raipur City North) and Ashish Chhabda (Bemetara), but all of them lost.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had fielded 18 candidates from “upper castes” and 16 of them emerged victorious. Of these 18, seven were Brahmins, out of which, five won the elections.
Two Brahmin candidates from the BJP who lost the polls are Shivratan Sharma (Bhatapara) and Premprakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar).
In run up to the polls, top Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and CM Bhupesh Baghel, had promised to conduct a caste census in Chhattisgarh if the party retained power in the state.
R Krishna Das, a poll analyst, said the Congress’s promises, including conducting a caste census aimed at winning over OBCs, seems to have divided “upper caste” voters in general category seats, resulting in its defeat in most of them.
However, the BJP’s Hindutva plank and selection of candidates in these unreserved seats worked in favour of the saffron party, Das added.
Of the 29 OBC candidates of the Congress, 16 emerged victorious. On the other hand, 19 of the 31 OBC candidates fielded by the BJP won elections. (PTI)