The BJP’s strategy to replace all its 10 sitting Lok Sabha MPs in Chhattisgarh to counter local anti-incumbency has paid rich dividends for the party with eight of the new candidates romping home.
In all, the saffron outfit has won nine of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while the Congress managed to bag just two.
The BJP snatched one seat (Durg) from the Congress, but lost two seats to the ruling party.
According to BJP sources, after facing a severe drubbing at the hands of the Congress in the 2018 assembly elections, the party was apparently in a dilemma over selection of candidates for the general election.
The BJP central leadership’s decision to drop all the 10 sitting MPs had sent shockwaves among state leaders.
Initially, several sitting MPs approached the party’s central leadership with a request to field them again, they said.
But later they unanimously decided to respect the decision of the central leadership and resolved to work for victory of candidates selected by the party, the sources said.
“It was a crucial decision taken on the basis of winnability factor which has now yielded results in favour of the party. There was no dissent among the sitting MPs who were denied ticket and all of them worked together for selected candidates in their respective areas,” state BJP chief Vikram Usendi told PTI.
“Apart from that, the development works done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his popular image also helped BJP nominees emerge victorious,” he added.
The party gave tickets to fresh faces with low profile image in eight seats and it won all of them. These seats are Raipur, Bilaspur, Surguja, Rajnandgaon, Janjgir-Champa, Mahasamund, Kanker and Raigarh.
In Raipur, the BJP denied ticket to its prominent Kurmi leader and seven-time MP Ramesh Bais. Instead, it fielded its state vice-president Sunil Soni, who defeated Congress candidate and Raipur Mayor Pramod Dubey.
Similarly, in another prestigious seat Rajnandgaon, where sitting MP Abhishek Singh, the son of former chief minister Raman Singh, was dropped, BJPs Santosh Pandey defeated Congress nominee Bholaram Sahu.
In Raigarh too, the BJP dropped its strongman and Union minister Vishnudeo Sai and instead pinned its hopes on a woman candidate, Gomtee Sai.
Gomtee Sai did not disappoint her party as she defeated Congress candidate Laljeet Singh Rathiya, the MLA from Dharamjaigarh in Raigarh district.
Another prominent leader who was denied ticket was Vikram Usendi, the state BJP president, from Kanker.
In Kanker, the BJP nominated Mohan Mandavi, who trounced Congress candidate Biresh Thakur.
Chunnilal Sahu (Mahasamund), Arun Sao (Bilaspur), Renuka Singh (Surguja) and Gujharam Ajgalley (Janjgir-Champa) were other new candidates of the BJP who posted victories.
The BJPs two new faces who lost election are Jyotinand Dubey (Korba) and Baiduram Kashyap (Bastar).
In 2014, the Congress had won only the Durg seat in the state.
This time, BJPs Vijay Baghel bagged Durg by a whopping margin of 3,91,978 votes against Congress’s Pratima Chandrakar.
However, political analysts believe that the “Modi factor” worked more effectively in favour of the saffron party than any other strategy.
“Any candidate from the BJP would have secured victory riding the Modi wave. Although the BJP succeeded in beating local anti-incumbency in the Lok Sabha polls by replacing sitting MPs, the credit for the party winning nine seats purely goes to Modi,” said Ashok Tomar, a Raipur-based political analyst.