CHHATTISGARH: MAIN MAN AJIT JOGI
Will he be the deciding factor in an always close two-way fight?
Will former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) lend the Raman Singh-led BJP the edge it needs to win a fourth successive term in office in Chhattisgarh? There is already widespread speculation that Jogi and his party could dampen the Congress’s prospects in the assembly polls scheduled later this year.
Since 2003, every assembly election in Chhattisgarh has seen a close finish, with the gap between the BJP and Congress vote share steadily reducing. It came down from 2.5 per cent in 2003 to 1.7 per cent in 2008. In the last assembly elections (2013), the difference narrowed further to 0.75 per cent.
Analysts say that being a former Congress politician, Jogi would cause attrition in the Congress’s support base, benefitting the BJP. At the india today State of the State Conclave held in Raipur on June 29, Chhattisgarh agriculture and water resources minister Brijmohan Agarwal said: “We pray for Ajit Jogi’s early recovery (he is recuperating in a Delhi hospital). He should remain active as it will help us win a fourth time.”
The Congress has been accusing Jogi of playing Raman Singh’s game and receiving financial support from the BJP. Congress leaders allege the massive rally organised by Jogi at Pendra in Bilaspur district in May had the government’s support. Jogi drew a bigger crowd than Congress president Rahul Gandhi did the same day at a nearby venue. Former Congress minister and Raipur Rural MLA Satyanarayan Sharma, however, says it’s too early to predict Jogi’s impact on the elections.
Some JCC leaders privately admit to a ‘deal’ with the BJP, but insist that beyond this ‘understanding’ on specific seats, Jogi will try to wrest as many seats as he can. Jogi could emerge as the kingmaker in case of a hung assembly. The JCC hopes to win big in central Chhattisgarh, where Jogi enjoys immense clout in the Satnami community, which is dominant in 10 reserved seats. So the BJP, which holds nine of these constituencies, too could suffer setbacks at the hands of Jogi. Party insiders say Jogi is also likely to strike a deal with the BJP for the tribal constituencies in northern and southern Chhattisgarh and the urban seats in Raipur and Durg.
There is also speculation that Jogi may return to the Congress. This is partly fuelled by his wife Renu Jogi’s continuance in the party. Though a section in the Congress favours his comeback, state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel and leader of the opposition T.S. Singhdeo are against it. Amit Jogi, who has been running the JCC in his father’s absence, rules out any understanding with the BJP. “I am neither the A nor the B team; I have the C & G team, which stands for Chhattisgarh,” he declared at the india today conclave.
KINGMAKER? Ajit Jogi