For long, a bastion of Congress and a seat that sent former Union minister VC Shukla to Lok Sabha six times, Mahasamund had drawn national attention during the last Lok Sabha election.
This was not because former chief minister Ajit Jogi was contesting from this seat against BJP’s Chandu Sahu. Rather, it was because nearly a dozen Chandu Sahus were in the fray in the 2014 election.
The BJP candidate’s full name was Chandulal Sahu and there were six other contestants whose name was exactly spelt ‘Chandu Lal Sahu’. Then, there was one ‘Chandoo Lal Sahu’ & two ‘Chandu Ram Sahu’, yet another ‘Chanduram Sahu’. All of them were independent candidates.
Jogi’s opponents had said that these candidates were deliberately fielded with the aim to confuse the BJP’s voter and hurt the BJP candidate’s prospects.
Still, BJP’s Chandu Sahu managed to win by securing 5.03 lakh votes. It was a nail-biting finish in which Jogi who got 5.02 lakh votes, lost by a just around one thousand votes.
However, it seemed that voters had indeed got confused and many Chandu Sahus had got substantial votes—one secured over 18,000, another over 10,000, yet another who got 9,500 odd votes. And, there was a long list.
Apart from Congress and BJP candidates, 22 other contestants got more than 1,000 votes each. Still, the independent Chandu Sahus who took away so many votes, couldn’t ensure Jogi’s win.
It was a rare seat that had a long list of candidates—19 independents apart from other parties. No wonder, everybody talked about the election and even today in Chhattisgarh, it is remembered again and again in conversations.
Much has changed since 2014. Now Ajit Jogi is no longer with Congress. He has floated the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress (Jogi).
In the recent Assembly poll, there was a Congress sweep in Chhattisgarh. However, the Jogi-BSP alliance has performed well in particular areas.
Apart from 2014, BJP had won this seat in 2009 as well. BJP’s Chandu Sahu had defeated Congress’ Motilal Sahu by 52,000 votes. But in 2004, Congress had won here.
Jogi had contested against former Congress strongman Vidyacharan Shukla, the ex-union minister. Jogi had defeated Shukla (who contested as BJP candidate) by over 1.18 lakh votes.
Earlier, it was considered a traditional Congress seat. The legendary Mini Mata got elected from Mahasamund (Baloda Bazar, then) before she shifted to Janjgir.
VC Shukla had contested and won from this seat, repeatedly, whenever he contested (till late 1980s). The BJP could first win it only in 1998.
In 1991 and 1996, Pawan Diwan won as Congress candidate. The BJP had first won the seat in 1998 when Chandrashekhar Sahu defeated Pawan Diwan.
But in 1999, Shyamacharan Shukla contested on Congress ticket and won from this constituency. Subsequently, Chhattisgarh, a new state, was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
In the first Lok Sabha election after the state’s formation, Jogi defeated VC Shukla in 2004. Now, after two successive losses on this seat, Congress is suddenly positive and hopeful due to the results of the recent Assembly election.
Congress has fared very well– it has got a big lead in terms of votes over BJP in the eight Assembly seats that fall under the constituency, having secured nearly 2 lakh votes more than BJP.
This has sent the BJP leadership into an introspective mode. But BJP has a strong voter base here and it has won the seat twice in a row. The voting pattern in Lok Sabha election may be different from Assembly polls. With Jogi-BSP alliance, it is going to be a tough and triangular contest on this seat in 2019.