Sitting in a posh chamber in his office in the state capital, the senior vice president of a leading corporate house heaved a sigh of relief as poll campaigning came to an end Sunday evening. For, the high-pitched election trail skipped raking up corporate issues, unlike the state polls that concluded about four months ago.
Of the seven Lok Sabha constituencies that would go to the polls in the third and final phase of election in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday, four have a strong bearing on corporate operations. All the major industries are located in these constituencies besides mining operations as the state has been endowed with high grade of coal reserves.
“In the assembly election, the issues of forest rights violation, land acquisition and rehabilitation figured on top of the list during poll campaigning, but they were conspicuously absent in the general election,” said rights activist Alok Shukla. The campaign was confined to national issues against people’s expectations, he added.
Congress kept its poll promise and returned to the villagers the lands acquired for the abandoned Tata Steel project in Bastar after it came to power. People in Sarguja, Janjgir, Korba and Raigarh (four of the seven seats) were expecting the Congress to make a similar announcement on four major power projects that had backed out despite land acquisition.
Besides Moser Baer and Visa power, land had been acquired from villagers for Iffco and South Korean company Daewoo. None of the companies expedited the plan and finally pulled out. Like the Tata Steel case, villagers were hoping the Congress would announce, or opposition BJP would call for, returning their land.
The senior vice president, requesting anonymity, said in the state polls, local issues found dominance. Given the Tata Steel issue and Congress raking up mining and land acquisition, companies in Chhattisgarh were worried they would be under the scanner even in the Lok Sabha election, he said, adding that they now felt relaxed.
Former Chief Minister and Chhattisgarh Janta Congress Chief Ajit Jogi followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in dwelling on the coal mine allocation issue. “The coal mines would not be safe under the Congress regime,” he said.
Ironically, the BJP isn't likely to benefit from Jogi's lashing out at the Congress, as he had opted out of Lok Sabha poll when BJP was hoping to split Congress votes. Unlike four that went to polls in first and second phases, Jogi had strong influence in the seven constituencies and would have been a spoilsport for the Congress.