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CMs played a key role as mascots of their parties

BS Reporters  |  New Delhi/Bhopal/Raipur 

During the run-up to the Delhi Assembly polls, bus stops, lamp posts, hoardings, glow-sign boards in the national capital carried huge, smiling faces of its two-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was hardly visible. A section of the party had then raised questions about why the chief minister was shown as the mascot of the party instead of Gandhi. However, today’s results clearly show that the Sheila-magic clicked as the Congress registered a record third victory in the capital.

Apart from Delhi, where Dikshit’s image of a clean and efficient administrator played a key role, in other states too the charisma of the chief ministers had an effect in turning the tide in favour or against their parties. In Chhattisgarh, the image of BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh seems to have inspired confidence despite the sorry record of his government in human rights issues. During the campaign, Singh frequently asked the voters to remember his face while voting. He knew that while many of his MLAs have lost popularity, his personal stock remained high. What seems to have clinched the deal in his favour is the fact that in the times of high inflation, Singh offered a scheme in his name to sell rice at Rs 2 a kilo for the poor.

Even on the issue of human rights violation, the chief minister did not seem to be the only person to be blamed. This is underlined by the fact that the BJP won 11 out of 12 seats in Bastar, which is the heart of Naxal and Salwa Judum-related activities.

This trend of a chief minister playing a crucial role over the party’s image started in Gujarat, with Narendra Modi swinging the masses to his tune. From distributing party tickets to focus on his clean image, Modi had set the path for a CM-centric election campaign. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party had dropped a large number of sitting MLAs to offset the anti-incumbency factor at the wish of its chief ministers. Even, in Delhi, Sheila Dikshit was extensively consulted before distributing party tickets.

Important issues, including those mentioned in the election manifestos, that the new governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Mizoram need to tackle:
* Create infrastructure: 40,000 km of roads and 6,000 Mw power. Find Rs 16,000 crore to improve power transmission and distribution
* Arrange Rs 2,500 crore to pay the salaries of 500,000-odd employees
* 100,000 jobs within 3 years
* Farm loans at 3 per cent
* Rice at Re 1 a kg under the Antyodaya scheme and at Rs 2 a kg for the BPL families
* Free power to farmers using pumps up to 5 HP
* Free salt to tribals
* Interest-free loans to farmers
* Bonus of Rs 270 per quintal on paddy procurement
* Set up biotech and IT parks
* Smooth organisation of Commonwealth Games
* Proper implementation of the BRT corridor
* Metro rail expansions on schedule
* Regular water supply in all parts of the city
* Keeping Yamuna clean
* More roads, more flyovers
* Balancing the sensitive caste issues
* Water in different parts of the state
* Improve the power supply
* Overall development of the state
* Creation of higher education institutes
* Employment generation
* Revival of traditional trade routes with neighbouring countries

Congress leaders in Bhopal admit that while the BJP’s campaign was based on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Congress couldn’t project anyone as a chief ministerial candidate. Besides, issues like the death of 300 babies or corruption cases were “exhausted” even before the poll fever gripped the state.

In Delhi, top BJP leaders openly admitted that they fielded a wrong candidate to fight Sheila Dikshit. BJP general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “the results showed that not all politicians are bad. Those who worked were rewarded.”

First Published: Tue, December 09 2008. 00:00 IST