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, Rabindra 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.