Bolstered by its stellar showing in the tribal-dominated seats in the 2018 Chhattisgarh Assembly polls, the Congress is planning an even more effective encore for the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
Party leaders said the plan was to dislodge the BJP from all four tribal-dominated Lok Sabha seats, out of grasp of the Congress since 2000 when the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
Three of these seats, namely Bastar, Raigarh and Surguja, will see sitting Congress MLAs contesting the Lok Sabha polls. Kanker is the fourth Scheduled Tribe reserved Lok Sabha seat in the state.
The BJP, which received a massive drubbing in the 2018 Assembly polls, is facing an uphill task to replace its sitting MPs in these four seats.
"The strategy to field sitting MLAs in Lok Sabha pollsis purely based on the win ability factor of the respective candidates and their activeness in the region. Besides, ground level feedback indicates they will win," state Congress general secretary Shailesh Nitin Trivedi told PTI.
"The Congress reclaimed the state''s tribal areas in the 2018 Assembly polls and will repeat the performance in the upcoming general elections," he asserted.
Premnagar MLA and Khelsai Singh will be the Congress'' candidate from Surguja Lok Sabha seat.
A four-time MLA, Singh has represented Surguja in the Lok Sabha in 1991, 1996 and 1999. Dipak Baij, a young leader and second-time MLA from Chitrakot, will be the party's candidate from Naxal-hit Bastar.
Two-time Congress MLA from Dharamjaigarh, Laljeet Singh Rathiya, will fight from Raigarh parliamentary seat.The Congress'' hopes from Kanker rides on fresh face Biresh Thakur, a zilla panchayat member from there.
Mr Thakur's father and grandfather served as Congress MLAs in undivided Madhya Pradesh. Tribals comprise around 32 per cent of the state''s population and are seen as vital in poll victories.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, seats with a sizable ST population contributed in a big way to the Congress'' sweeping victory.
The party won 25 out of 29 ST reserved Assembly seats while the BJP managed three and Ajit Jogi's JCC(J) one.
The Congress won all eight Assembly seats each in Surguja, Raigarh and Kanker Lok Sabha seats in the 2018 polls.
In Bastar, the Congress won seven Assembly segments while the BJP had won the Dantewada seat. Some of the 32 Assembly seats in these four Lok Sabha constituencies are general category ones.
The BJP, which was relegated to the opposition benches in 2018 after a 15-year stint in power, is putting up a brave face claiming the Assembly reverses would not have a bearing in the forthcoming general polls.
"The Congress performed well in tribal-dominated areas in the state polls as they have done in the past. But history is witness that the BJP had won all ST reserved seats in Lok Sabha polls after the state was formed," state BJP spokesperson Sachchidan and Upasane said.
"There is a Narendra Modi wave in the country which will steer the BJP to victory in all 11 Lok Sabha seats of Chhattisgarh," he claimed.
The BJP has fielded women leaders Renuka Singh and Gomtee Sai from Surguja and Raigarh seats respectively, while Baiduram Kashyap (Bastar) and Mohan Mandavi (Kanker), both fresh faces, are its other two candidates.
Chhattisgarh will see polling in three phases on April 11, April 18 and April 23. The BJP had managed to win 10 out of 11 seats in the 2004, 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls.