Jagdalpur, where Narendra Modi had labeled the Congress ‘urban Naxal’ sympathisers, is among the five seats BJP won in 2013 but lost this year.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s bid to paint the Congress as sympathisers of “urban Naxals”, a coinage of the party’s supporters, seems to have failed to impress voters of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency hotbeds.
Of the 18 Chhattisgarh assembly constituencies considered to be Naxalism-affected, the party has only won two, four down from its 2013 tally.
The only one the BJP has retained from its 2013 kitty is Rajnandgaon, former chief minister Raman Singh’s constituency. The other seat it secured was Dantewada, won by the Congress in 2013.
Jagdalpur, the assembly constituency in Bastar where the PM had made his “urban Naxal” statement, gave the Congress candidate a cosy victory over his BJP rival. The BJP had won the constituency in 2013.
The Congress has won 15 of the 18 seats, with former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh winning one.
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‘No role to play’
Speaking in Jagdalpur on 9 November, three days before polling in the 18 seats, the Prime Minister had attacked the Congress for issuing statements in favour of “urban Naxals”.
Linking the issue with national security, the PM had said, “Naxals kill our jawans and hand our children guns, and the Congress calls them revolutionaries.”
He added that the so-called “urban Maoists” led an easy life in cities at the expense of poor tribals. “Urban maoists live in air conditioned homes, look clean, [their] children study abroad… [they] remote control tribals,” the PM had said.
The term “urban Naxals” was coined by Right-wing social media users in light of the arrests of multiple activists this year for their alleged collaboration with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and suspected involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon flare-up.
The Congress was among the critics of the arrests.
The party had lashed out at the PM’s remarks, citing the 2013 suspected Maoist attack that slaughtered much of the party’s state leadership ahead of the assembly elections to label Modi’s campaign “frivolous”.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior BJP leader from the state said the party’s defeat was primarily a result of anti-incumbency and had nothing to do with the PM’s speech at Jagdalpur.
“I do not think it is the urban Naxal remark that made us lose the areas,” he added. “It is true that they [Maoists] have Congress support in many regions, and that is the reason why it is always the Congress that wins the majority of the seats.”
Polls to the 18 seats were conducted under the threat of Maoist violence, with the insurgents distributing pamphlets with warnings for people who voted on 12 November. The second phase, for the state assembly’s remaining 72 seats, was held on 20 November.
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Some senior BJP leaders believe that had the party been observant, it could have gauged its position after the first phase and worked to up its game over the next week.
The election also raised questions about the general consensus in the BJP that a higher voter turnout worked in its favour. Dantewada, for one, had the lowest voter turnout, while the seat with the highest, Khujji, went to the Congress.