CPI’s decline in Chhattisgarh: Why some candidates are contesting as independents

The CPI lost its national party status earlier this year.

WrittenBy:Basant Kumar

Months after it lost its status as a national party, the Communist Party of India is trying to make its presence felt in several poll-bound states, including Chhattisgarh, where it once enjoyed substantial support among tribal voters and is contesting on 16 seats this time.

But its plans seem to have hit a hurdle in the state. The state election commission only approved it as a state party in the second phase because the CPI delayed its application in the first phase. This meant that the seven candidates who were supposed to contest on the CPI symbol in the first phase, all of them in Bastar region, have now been fielded as Independent candidates with different symbols.

However, the party’s nine other candidates will contest on the CPI symbol in the second phase. 

In Dantewada ST constituency which will vote in the first phase, the CPI’s decline is all too visible, with candidate Bhimsen Mandavi setting up his temporary election office in a tin shade structure. Mandavi is contesting the election with a glass as his poll symbol. This is in stark contrast to the status the party once had in the area – even Mahendra Karma, who later moved to the Congress before his death, had won his first election as a CPI candidate in Dantewada in 1980. 

Chhattisgarh CPI leader DCP Rao says the growing influence of muscle and money in electoral politics is a reason behind the CPI’s decline. “We used to have 1,200 members in Dantewada two years ago. This used to be much higher before.”

Sanjay Pant, an activist who works for the rights of farm workers, said, “Voters here remember the ears of corn and sickle (the CPI poll symbol). They find it difficult to identify the glass and air conditioner symbols on EVMs. The party may lose votes.”


This report has been published as part of the joint NL-TNM Election Fund and is supported by hundreds of readers. Click here to power our ground reports.

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