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.
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.
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.