Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections 2023

9 min readNov 23, 2023
People of Muria tribe of Bastar district. Tribal issues have become influential in the upcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh. Photo: Flickr/Collin Key

In the upcoming Chhattisgarh elections, the stage is set for a high-stakes duel between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. Following the Congress’s break in the BJP’s winning streak in 2018, the state is poised for another political showdown. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s leadership anchors the Congress, facing the challenge of incumbency, while the BJP aims to reclaim its lost ground. Amidst accusations of corruption, religious dynamics, and a shifting political lexicon, Chhattisgarh’s electoral landscape reflects a dynamic interplay of regional identity and strategic narratives. In light of this, Polstrat analyses the results of the previous elections, the predictions for the upcoming assembly elections, and the realities from the ground.

Ballots and Beyond: The story so far

The vibrant state of Chhattisgarh is gearing up for yet another electoral spectacle, where the democratic fervour is interwoven with complex narratives, multiple contenders, and a plethora of issues that resonate with the diverse populace. As the political theatre unfolds, it is imperative to delve into the multifaceted layers that define the forthcoming elections, ranging from key political players to pressing issues, internal party dynamics, and recent developments that have left an indelible mark on the state’s political landscape.

Chhattisgarh, known for its rich cultural tapestry and diverse demographics, is set to witness a showdown among several major political parties. The stage is dominated by stalwarts such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC)-(J), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Each party brings its unique ideology, vision, and promises to the electorate, creating a dynamic electoral milieu.

Adding a distinctive dimension to the electoral equation is the participation of the Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an umbrella organisation representing tribal groups. With a significant influence in rural and tribal areas, their involvement is poised to influence the electoral dynamics, potentially shaping the outcome in these critical segments. The Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), a regional player, further enriches the political tapestry, highlighting the nuanced nature of Chhattisgarh’s electoral landscape.

Politics in Chhattisgarh focuses on various issues that connect with its diverse population. Paddy Support Price emerges as a pivotal concern, particularly in regions where agriculture plays a crucial role in the livelihoods of the residents. Both major political parties, especially the Congress, have grappled with finding sustainable solutions to address the demands of paddy farmers. The commitment to provide a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 2,500 per quintal for paddy, as articulated by the Congress party in 2018, reflects the ongoing struggle to strike a balance between agricultural sustainability and economic viability.

The “Jal-Jungle-Jameen” trinity remains an enduring focus, especially in tribal areas encompassing Chhattisgarh’s southern Bastar and the northern Surguja region. In Surguja, contentious matters such as coal mining and environmental concerns have sparked debates and agitations. A newly established political group representing tribals has emerged, centering its campaign on these critical issues. The intricate interplay of tribal rights, environmental conservation, and economic development adds layers of complexity to the electoral narrative.

Infrastructure development, a cornerstone of governance, has encountered challenges in the past five years. With the Congress-led government predominantly concentrating on the welfare of farmers and other social sector expenditures, urban areas face concerns regarding the progress of roads and other infrastructure projects. This becomes a significant issue, as citizens in urban locales seek improved connectivity and upgraded infrastructure to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving society.

Corruption allegations have been a persistent cloud over Chhattisgarh’s political landscape. Controversies surrounding alleged nepotism and corruption in the state Public Service Commission (PSC) selections have not only reached the high court but have also become prominent topics in the campaign speeches of prominent leaders like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Additionally, allegations of a liquor scandal and a coal levy scandal have further complicated the political terrain, requiring a delicate balance of addressing these concerns while building public trust.

Unemployment, despite a lowered national unemployment rate, remains a pressing issue in Chhattisgarh, especially among the youth, constituting approximately 25 percent of the total population. The state’s youth grapple with the challenge of securing gainful employment. A last-minute announcement by the INC, closely preceding the elections, promised an unemployment allowance of Rs 2,500 and the disbursement of two instalments to 10 lakh youth, injecting a sense of hope into the minds of the unemployed.

Tribal and communal conflicts, particularly the recent surge in violence between Adivasi Christians and non-Christians, have created a complex socio-political landscape. The emergence of factions from both groups, dissatisfied with both the Congress and the BJP, underscores the challenges in providing a strong sense of security to tribals who have converted to Christianity. Instances of denial of fundamental cremation rights, subsequent arson, and boycotts have raised fundamental questions about the inclusivity and protection of minority rights in the state.

The ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign initiative by the BJP, particularly in Jashpur and led by the late Dilip Singh Judev, has played a pivotal role in consolidating the BJP’s position in Chhattisgarh. This initiative, while accused of using poor living conditions and the promise of education and healthcare to convert tribals to Christianity, has also sparked debates about the intersection of religion and politics in the state.

In the previous assembly elections, the BJP, which had won three consecutive elections since the state’s inception in 2003, suffered a significant setback as the Congress emerged victorious, securing 15 out of 90 seats.

Pulse of the People: Opinion Polls in the Runup to the Elections

As Chhattisgarh gears up for the upcoming Assembly elections in 2023, political pundits and citizens alike eagerly await insights into the possible electoral outcomes. Two prominent opinion polls, one conducted by ABP News-CVoter and the other by IANS-Polstrat, provide a glimpse into the potential seat shares, vote percentages, and public sentiments regarding chief ministerial candidates. Let’s delve into the comparative analysis of these opinion polls to discern the varied perspectives shaping the political landscape in the state.

According to the ABP News-CVoter survey, the seat projections suggest a closely contested battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), with the BJP expected to secure 39–45 seats and the INC projected to win 45–51 seats. The vote share reflects a marginal lead for the BJP at 53%, while the INC is close behind at 47%. In contrast, the IANS-Polstrat opinion poll presents a more decisive lead for the INC, projecting 62 seats, significantly ahead of the BJP’s 27 seats. The vote share percentages indicate a noteworthy difference, with the INC at 44% compared to the BJP’s 38%.

Chief ministerial candidate ratings, as per the ABP News-CVoter survey, reveal Bhupesh Baghel of the INC as the most preferred candidate with a substantial lead, securing a 48.0% rating. In contrast, Raman Singh of the BJP lags significantly behind with a 23.0% rating. T.S. Singh Deo of the INC holds a 19.0% rating, while Ramesh Bias of the BJP trails with a minimal 1.2%.

The comparative analysis showcases several key takeaways. Firstly, there is a notable discrepancy in seat projections, with the ABP News-CVoter survey foreseeing a closely contested battle, while IANS-Polstrat anticipates a more decisive lead for the INC. Secondly, the vote share percentages highlight varying sentiments among the electorate, with ABP News-CVoter suggesting a marginal lead for the BJP and IANS-Polstrat indicating a substantial advantage for the INC. Lastly, Bhupesh Baghel’s popularity as the chief ministerial candidate is evident in the ABP News-CVoter survey, positioning him as a frontrunner, while specific ratings for other candidates and their impact on voter preferences are not explicitly outlined in the IANS-Polstrat poll.

In conclusion, these opinion polls provide a snapshot of the current political dynamics in Chhattisgarh. The divergent seat and vote share projections underscore the fluid nature of the state’s political climate. As the elections unfold, the true verdict of the people will ultimately determine the political landscape in Chhattisgarh.

Unravelling the Results of Previous Elections

The political terrain of Chhattisgarh has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade, as reflected in the contrasting results of the 2013 and 2018 Assembly elections. The 2013 elections witnessed a closely contested battle between the two major parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the BJP securing 49 seats and the INC trailing closely with 39 seats. The political landscape was marked by a diverse array of smaller parties and independent candidates, contributing to a nuanced distribution of votes.

Fast forward to the 2018 elections, and the dynamics experienced a noteworthy shift. The INC emerged as the dominant force, securing a substantial increase in both seats and vote share. With a commanding victory, the INC claimed 68 seats, a significant surge from its 2013 tally of 39 seats. The BJP, on the other hand, experienced a decline in both seats and vote share, securing 15 seats and 32.97% of the votes compared to its 2013 tally of 49 seats and 41.04% of the votes.

The regional political landscape also witnessed the emergence of the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) as a notable player in the 2018 elections. With 5 seats and 7.61% of the votes, the JCC made its mark, contributing to the diversification of the political spectrum. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) secured 2 seats with 3.87% of the votes, consolidating its position as a key player in the electoral dynamics.

The shift in the voter sentiment is evident in the vote percentages, with the INC garnering 43.04% in 2018 compared to 40.29% in 2013. Conversely, the BJP witnessed a dip in its vote share from 41.04% in 2013 to 32.97% in 2018. The overall landscape in 2018 also saw a decrease in the influence of independent candidates and smaller parties, as reflected in the reduced percentage of votes garnered by ‘Others,’ dropping from 9.07% in 2013 to 12.51% in 2018.

In conclusion, the decade between the 2013 and 2018 Chhattisgarh Assembly elections witnessed a transformative shift in the political dynamics. The INC’s resurgence and the emergence of new players like the JCC highlight the evolving preferences of the electorate. The electoral landscape continues to evolve, and the upcoming elections are poised to unveil further nuances in Chhattisgarh’s political narrative.

Defining the Landscape

In the impending electoral clash in Chhattisgarh, the stage is set for a gripping battle primarily between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. The Congress, led by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, seeks to defend its 2018 triumph against the BJP, which aims to reclaim power. Baghel, leveraging his OBC-outreach identity and a strong regional focus, remains a linchpin for the Congress, with promises of farmer loan waivers and a record of fulfilling previous commitments.

Contrastingly, the BJP has targeted the Congress on multiple fronts, accusing the government of religious conversion, corruption, and violence. The strategic moves by both parties, such as the creation of a “Ram Van Gaman Path” by Congress and the BJP’s emphasis on corruption, reflect the intricate dance of regional identity and national narratives.

The political lexicon in Chhattisgarh has evolved, witnessing the emergence of the Hindu-Muslim divide as a prominent poll issue. This shift, influenced by past communal incidents, adds a layer of complexity to the electoral discourse. While the BJP builds a narrative around allegations of polarisation and corruption, the Congress endeavours to retain its ground through new welfare promises and the mantra of “Bharosa” or trust.

As surveys indicate a competitive scenario, with Congress slightly ahead, the crucial challenge for both parties remains managing internal dissent, a factor that pervades the political landscape. In the coming elections, Chhattisgarh stands at a crossroads, where the interplay of regional identity, governance concerns, and political strategies will ultimately shape the state’s political trajectory.

Pavitra Mohan Singh / New Delhi

Contributing reports by Aan Mary Suresh and Yuvraaj Singh Rahal, Researchers at Polstrat.

Infographics by the Graphic Design Team at Polstrat.

From Polstrat, a non-partisan political consultancy which aims to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.

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Polstrat is a political consultancy aiming to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.