Raipur, Dec 10 ():BJP’s slender margin over Congress in Chhattisgarh is credited to the little-known Dalit priests Satnam Sena, who were instrumental in ensuring the BJP’s win in at least 19 constituencies, which includes nine reserved seats.
The priests clad in white robes, flew in choppers to campaign in Congress strongholds, to split the party’s Dalit votes. The BJP government reduced the Scheduled Caste (SC) community quota in government jobs from 16 per cent to 12 per cent, and increased the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
With the Satnamis, who form a large portion of the SC population in the state, who are also traditional Congress voters, the BJP was in trouble. Chhattisgarh’s 40 seats outcome is decided by 12 lakh SC voters.
Two months before the polls, on September 13, a priestly family of the Satnami Samaj announced a political party and got it registered as the Satnam Sena. The chief priest, Guru Bal Das, was the party’s president. It was by the BJP, the Sena put up candidates for both general and SC reserved seats in the central plains, where only the Congress had gained in 2008. This region is bastion of Shuklas, Jogis and Chaubeys. The Congress had also won the municipal polls in the area since 2008, and was expected to make gains here.
The contest between BJP-Congress turned triangular, and the Satnam Sena did not win any seat, but effectively split the votes of Congress. The Sena party contested 15 general seats, of which the BJP won 10.
BJP lost tribal Bastar and Sarguja where it was in a direct fight with the Congress, but won nine SC seats where the Satnam Sena had fielded candidates or backed independents.
Congress bigwigs Dharmjit Singh, Mohammad Akbar and Ravindra Chaubey lost from seats where the Satnam Sena contested. Amitesh Shukla, nephew of the late V C Shukla’s nephew lost from the family’s stronghold of Rajim.
Satnam Sena says Congress has done nothing for the community, so they decided to join politics. They deny links to BJP. Sena’s candidate election affidavits show no assets but candidates went around in choppers to which they say they are self sufficient and why nobody asked BJP or Congress this query.