Congress in Ch­hat­tis­garh wants Jogi baCk ahead oF eleC­tions

Ajit Jogi, who formed his own party in June last year, has an­nounced a list of 22 can­di­dates for next year’s elec­tions in this BJP-ruled state.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

With an eye on Ch­hat­tis­garh As­sem­bly elec­tions, due in 2018, Congress work­ers and state lead­ers are keen to re­store ties with the Janta Congress Ch­hat­tis­garh ( J), formed by for­mer Chief Min­is­ter Ajit Jogi, who broke away from the grand old party.

Jogi, who formed his new party in June last year, has an­nounced a list of 22 can­di­dates for next year’s polls. He is hold­ing pub­lic ral­lies across Ch­hat­tis­garh along with his son Amit Jogi, an MLA.

Ac­cord­ing to Congress lead­ers and work­ers who spoke to this news­pa­per, Jogi may ruin the Congress’ prospects in a state where the BJP, now in power for more than 13 years un­der Ra­man Singh, was fac­ing mas­sive anti-in­cum­bency.

“The peo­ple are look­ing for change and this elec­tion is a golden chance for us to come back to power. How­ever, for that, we need to get all our lead­ers to­gether, in­clud­ing Ajit Jogi, who can ‘im­pact’ the re­sults in at least 25 plus seats (which are re­served for the Sched­uled Tribes) out of the to­tal 90 seats in the state. He may not win more than 10 seats if he con­tests alone but due to him we will end up los­ing more than 25 seats which is a mas­sive num­ber in a rel­a­tively small As­sem­bly like Ch­hat­tis­garh’s,” a se­nior Congress party leader, who has also been a min­is­ter, said.

He claimed that the break in Ch­hat­tis­garh Congress has come as a life­line for the state BJP. “Rather than tak­ing on the BJP, some of our top state lead­ers are fo­cus­ing more on de­feat­ing Jogi as if de­feat­ing him is the only pur­pose of the party in the state,” he said.

In the 2013 As­sem­bly elec­tions, the vote share be­tween the two par­ties was less than one per cent, with BJP get­ting 41.04% while the Congress got 40.29% votes, which even­tu­ally trans­formed into 49 seats for the BJP and 39 for the Congress. In that elec­tion, the Congress lost at least 13 seats with a mar­gin of fewer than 4,000 votes and two seats with a mar­gin of fewer than 1,000 votes.

“If we had man­aged to set­tle the dif­fer­ences amongst our se­nior lead­ers in the 2013 elec­tions, we would have been in power now, some­thing that even the BJP knows. We lost on 15 plus seats be­cause of this in­ter­nal squab­bling or else we would have won on 55 plus seats very eas­ily,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to state party lead­ers, se­nior lead­ers like Satya­narayan Sharma, Rabi- ndra Choubey, and Dha­nen­dra Sahu are in favour of “work­ing to­gether” with Jogi for the larger in­ter­est of the party.

“All the top state lead­ers of the party have crossed 65 years of age and they know that if they do not come back to power this time due to per­sonal ego and is­sues, they will not be in a con­di­tion to con­test the elec­tions that will be held in 2023. We have no se­cond-gen­er­a­tion lead­ers in the state and un­less and un­til we come back to power, we will not be able to have a new crop of lead­ers,” the se­nior Congress party leader quoted said.

Ch­hat­tis­garh state party pres­i­dent, Bhu­pesh Baghel, ac­cord­ing to state lead­ers, was the only one who was op­posed to any kind of “al­liance” with Jogi. “It was be­cause of Baghel that Jogi left and un­less and un­til Baghel is re­placed, which is go­ing to hap­pen sooner rather than later, we can­not fight the BJP to­gether. Baghel, for rea­sons best known to him, has made his mis­sion to fin­ish off Jogi’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer with­out con­sid­er­ing how ad­versely it will af­fect the party. We are los­ing our vot­ers and work­ers and if we do not win this time, there will be noth­ing left to write about,” a party spokesper­son, who is known for his anti -Jogi stand, said. Even as pre-poll sur­veys and se­nior Congress lead­ers in­di­cate that the party has a strong chance to win the As­sem­bly elec­tions in Kar­nataka due next year, an­a­lysts say it is not go­ing to be an easy road, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) high­light­ing the anti-in­cum­bency fac­tor in the state.

After fac­ing de­feat in a ma­jor­ity of states that have gone to polls since 2014, Kar­nataka is be­ing seen as the strong­est ground for Congress to re­tain its gov­ern­ment. While Congress is sell­ing its “pro-poor”, “pro-farm­ers schemes”, BJP is high­light­ing the lack of in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment and high debt of the in­cum­bent Congress gov­ern­ment.

Analysing Chief Min­is­ter Sid­dara­ma­iah’s per­for­mance, K. Subra­manya, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst based in Kar­nataka, said that the Congress has not done any “out­stand­ing” work in the state that will stay with the peo­ple in the long term and this makes it dif­fi­cult to be cer­tain that the Congress will win.

“There is a chance. But it does not look like a clear and easy win. The Pari­varthana Ya­tra of BJP is start­ing to draw larger crowds now. There is anti-in­cum­bency in the state,” said Subra­manya.

Speak­ing to The Sun­day Guardian, B.K. Hariprasad, Mem­ber of Parliament from Kar­nataka, said that the Sid­dara­ma­iah gov­ern­ment has de­liv­ered in Kar­nataka.

Hariprasad said: “The rice sub­sidy, Indira Canteen, and milk sub­sidy have proven the state gov­ern­ment’s so­cially in­clu­sive schemes that are pro-poor. The gov­ern­ment has brought pro­farmer pro­grammes from which peo­ple have ben­e­fited; then why will there be anti-in­cum­bency? These are not to be seen as pop­ulist mea­sures. ”

The Kar­nataka gov­ern­ment has also sanc­tioned a Bill to spend Rs 100 crore for mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion and field pub­lic­ity of the gov­ern­ment’s schemes, us­ing vinyl posters on gov­ern­ment buses.

The BJP, how­ever, ar­gues that ur­ban­i­sa­tion has slowed down and the fis­cal state of Kar­nataka has de­te­ri­o­rated un­der Congress. Te­jaswi Surya, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the BJP Youth Wing, Kar­nataka, said, “Kar­nataka is reel­ing un­der the over­bur­den of debts, with the present to­tal debt of the state be­ing Rs 105,584.23 crore as per the fi­nance de­part­ment. If you look at the loans availed by past gov­ern­ments since 1999, the Sid­dara­ma­iah gov­ern­ment has fi­nanced the largest loans. But there has been no in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment in the state; the state of our roads and cities has not im­proved to the ex­tent our debt has in­creased.”

Hariprasad, how­ever, said that Kar­nataka’s debt is lesser than that of Gu­jarat and that Kar­nataka is an ideal model for a state.

REUTERS

A man uses his mo­bile phone to take pho­to­graphs of tides on the shores of the Ara­bian Sea, after flood­ing caused by Cy­clone Ockhi in the coastal vil­lage of Chel­lanam in Ker­ala, on Satur­day. The bod­ies of four Ker­ala fish­er­men were re­cov­ered on Satur­day, tak­ing the toll to six so far.

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