Chhattisgarh duel: High voter turnout in phase I highlights yearning for normalcy
The first round of polling for the Chhattisgarh assembly election threw up a welcome surprise. Of the 18 constituencies that went to polls, 10 exceeded or at least matched the previous high figures of 2013. The overall turnout percentage from this phase stood at 76.28% despite a poll boycott call by Maoists and violence in the run up to voting. The high turnout clearly exemplifies a yearning for normalcy even in the Maoist-affected areas of Bastar and Rajnandgaon. Ballots are clearly preferred to bullets here.
But what are the two main contenders in Chhattisgarh, BJP and Congress, promising the people of the state? Going by their respective manifestos, there seems to be significant overlap. Both parties appear to be targeting farmers, women and cows. BJP is promising to increase the MSP for forest produce by 1.5 times, provide interest-free loans up to Rs 20 lakh for packaging of fruits and vegetables, and Rs 1,000 monthly pension for small and marginal farmers. Congress, on the other hand, has promised a farm loan waiver within 10 days of forming government, fixing MSP of various crops, and appropriate compensation for acquisition of agricultural land.
For women, BJP plans to provide scholarship for girls pursuing higher education outside the state, two wheelers for meritorious students taking admission in colleges, and interest free loans of up to Rs 2 lakh for women setting up businesses. Not to be outdone, Congress has promised to set up women police stations, waive off loans taken by women self-help groups, and set up girls’ polytechnics and ITIs in every district. And in signs of competitive cow politics both parties have promised cow shelters and help to the dairy industry.
With BJP chief minister Raman Singh at Chhattisgarh’s helm for 15 years, this assembly election is being seen as his toughest test yet. Under him, Chhattisgarh has benefitted from an efficient PDS system, steady industrial growth and near-universal electricity access. But issues remain as industrial output has not resulted in commensurate increase in jobs and wages. Chhattisgarh comprises 2.5% of India’s working population but accounted for just 1.2% of factory jobs in 2016. Plus, the state’s considerable dependence on agriculture and disruption caused to this by demonetisation may trouble BJP. In the last assembly polls, Congress had won 12 of 18 seats in phase I. BJP certainly needs to overturn this result if it is to beat anti-incumbency in the state.
|Exceeded: be greater in number or size than (a quantity, number, or other measurable thing).
Example: Production costs have exceeded $60,000
|Turnout: the number of people attending or taking part in an event, especially the number of people voting in an election.
Example: He predicted a high turnout at the general election.
Synonyms: attendance, audience, crowd, gathering, showing, throng, assembly
|Exemplifies: be a typical example of
Example: Rock bands that best exemplify the spirit of the age
Synonyms: typify, epitomize, be a typical example of, represent, be representative of, symbolize
|Appropriate: suitable or proper in the circumstances.
Example: A measure appropriate to a wartime economy
Synonyms: suitable, proper, fitting, apt, right, relevant, pertinent, apposite, convenient
|Acquisition: an asset or object bought or obtained, typically by a library or museum.
Example: Among the museum’s acquisitions , he discovered a piece of furniture that he had made 40 years before.
Synonyms: purchase, buy, gain, accession, addition, investment, possession
|Meritorious: deserving reward or praise.
Example: A medal for meritorious conduct
Synonyms: praiseworthy, laudable, commendable, admirable, estimable, creditable
|Considerable: notably large in size, amount, or extent.
Example: A position of considerable influence
Synonyms: sizable, substantial, appreciable, significant, goodly, fair, hefty, handsome
|Incumbency: the holding of an office or the period during which one is held.
Example: His chief advantage is his incumbency and its inherent command of the free-media forum that will be pivotal over the next eight weeks.