On May 25, almost the entire leadership of the Chhattisgarh Congress was wiped out in a Maoist ambush in Darbha Ghat. A few days later, a video footage emerged, showing party president Charandas Mahant raising his right hand to casually slap Kawasti Lakhma, MLA from Konta in south Chhattisgarh. He was also heard asking the tribal MLA why he failed to ensure security to the leaders. The video went viral on social media and was played over and over the next few weeks by every television channel.
Eventually, the entire State leadership secretly went on to accuse its own MLAs and leaders for the death of PCC president Nand Kumar Patel and the cadres. A conspiracy theory was floated by the Congress against its leader Ajit Jogi. The issue of lack of security in the Darbha Ghat area, despite information having been provided to the DGP, remained unexplained and the Congress largely chose to be publically suspicious of its own cadres rather than cornering the government. As a result, a section of the leadership — Mr. Jogi and his loyalists — was put on the back foot. Instead of bringing together the fighting factions of the State unit, the Congress national leadership encouraged the groups to produce evidence against each other.
The ruling BJP could not have asked for more.
The situation was so frustrating that a Bastar daily editor, Tusharkanti Bose, was compelled to draw a parallel between Chhattisgarh and West Bengal politics. “I wonder what Mamata Banerjee would have done in Bengal with an issue like Darbha massacre … and here the Congress could not even bring out a proper rally…” he said in an informal interaction. Mr. Bose, brother of West Bengal CPI(M) leader Biman Bose, was spot on with his analysis.
Electors unanimously agree that the Congress in Chhattisgarh could not push for any comprehensive strategy to mount pressure on the political rival following the Darbha massacre. Other than few nondescript rallies with ashes of the slain leaders, the party has not managed to provoke its political opponents outside the Assembly. Not a single leader went on a hunger strike, no roads in the State were blocked, and not one big agitation programme was organised. The question is why the Congress could not initiate a political programme that could lead to a mass agitation.
“When the Congress should have brought the agitation on the road and orchestrated political mass movements involving people, the party engaged in a blame game, failing to turn the biggest issue into a movement,” said Rajesh Tripathi, an independent candidate and social activist.
Factionalism has also affected the party. While the Mahant-led team alleged that Mr. Jogi had put up rebels to defeat the Congress, the Jogi-led unit blamed the official Congress for not being too aggressive against the BJP after the Darbha incident.