CHHATTISGARH: MAIN MAN AJIT JOGI

Will he be the de­cid­ing fac­tor in an al­ways close two-way fight?

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

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

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