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In Chhattisgarh, BJP girds for close tie

In first list, the party dumps 14 sitting MLAs, factoring in the victory of margin in the 2013 polls

Looking for a fourth term in power in Chhattisgarh, the BJP leadership has been going into the results of the 2013 Assembly polls with a fine-tooth comb, especially seats won with a margin of fewer than 10,000 votes and the 15 seats where the margin of victory was fewer than the NOTA (none of the above) tally.

All these have resulted in 14 sitting MLAs being dropped from the party’s first list of candidates, released on Saturday.

Senior party sources say two or three MLAs will be dropped in the second list of 12.

Slender margins

Senior leaders involved in the process told The Hindu that victory in the State had always been on slender margins, and in a 91-member Assembly (one member is nominated), each vote counted.

“In 2013, the difference between the Congress vote share and ours was less than 1%, and there were at least 15 seats [of which the BJP won eight] where the margin of victory was fewer than the votes polled by NOTA,” a senior party office-bearer said.

“With 14 already dropped and at least two more to be done, out of the 49 MLAs in the State, a third have been dropped. In half the Assembly seats [45 seats], the margin of victory has been fewer than 10,000. These are clear indicators that the contest will be close and that candidate selection has to be just right.”

Panels formed

Committees have been set up for each of the 90 seats and a short list of three or four possible candidates made.

The party’s central election committee looked at the list before finalising candidates on Saturday.

The presence of a third force in these polls, the alliance between Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and the Bahujan Samaj Party, is expected to help stop the consolidation of anti-BJP votes.

Jogi factor

It can, however, be a mixed blessing for the party. “While our assessment is that the Ajit Jogi factor will largely help us, it could cut into our votes too if local anti-incumbency factor builds up,” a source said.

The number of MLAs being dropped could rise for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (where candidates are to be announced). The next meeting of the central election committee will be held on November 2 or 3, and a possible first list for Madhya Pradesh may be released.

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