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Behind the Congress remarkable turnaround in Maoist-hit areas this year lies an electoral promise that now stands aborted. For the first time in Chhattisgarh's electoral history, a political party mentioned the word "Naxal" in its manifesto this year. The Congress promised that the "restoration of trust of tribals" and "security operations when necessary" would form the party's programme to resolve the Naxal issue. It promised to rehabilitate all tribals displaced in violence.
Coming after the Darbha attack that wiped out its top leaders in Chhattisgarh, the emphasis on humanitarian solution of the crisis was significant for both what it promised and where it emerged from. But now since the Congress has won Bastar but lost Chhattisgarh, the text will forever be buried. The subtext and questions about its sources though would linger on. The Maoists were clearly watching this election, after all.
Notwithstanding its third straight victory in Chhattisgarh hence, the BJP has lost its biggest base of tribal Bastar that solely accounted for its victory in the last two polls. Seven districts of Bastar and adjoining Rajnandgaon, which account for eight of the 26 most severely Maoist-hit districts in the country, have 18 assembly seats. Of these 15 were with the BJP in 2008, this year BJP got just 6 as Congress ended with 12 seats.
The Bastar result is significant, not just for Chhattisgarh, but the entire country. The Bastar resident, apparently without any initiation in politics, first gave the country its biggest electoral turnout ever in tribal areas, over 70 per cent, 5 seats crossed 80 per cent. She then extensively pressed the NOTA option, including 5,000 votes in Dantewada alone.
And now as he takes his third consecutive oath, Chief Minister Raman Singh will be pinched by this rejection, especially because he had projected himself to be the biggest guardian of tribals by dishing out an improbable list of freebies. During a campaign in Jagdalpur, party's PM candidate Narendra Modi had repeatedly pointed how Singh had remedied the historical poverty of tribals caused by Congress.
The visible credit for this result goes to the slain PCC chief Nand K Patel, who had made the first political efforts to reclaim Bastar and win over tribals nearly 18 months ago and resurrected the almost defunct Congress in the forested zone. He ensured his men visited their constituencies, avoided parachuted rallies and took to roads. In July 2012, he personally led his MLAs to