The Congress in Chhattisgarh is not being able to perform as an aggressive opposition party ever since former Chief Minister of the state, Ajit Jogi has broken away to form his own party. Jogi’s departure has led to a situation where the Congress is more preoccupied in fighting with the breakaway unit than with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Speaking about Jogi’s departure from the Congress, a Congress leader said: “After this development, the Congress should have fought with the ruling party. But instead, most of its energy is getting wasted in attacking Jogi. Thus it has become a case of ‘Congress vs Jogi Congress’ which is only going to help the BJP.”
Things have deteriorated to the extent where a weakened and rudderless state Congress is hoping for a “miracle” to take on the BJP, which has won the Assembly elections for three consecutive terms under the leadership of Chief Minister Raman Singh. A cross section of state Congress leaders confided to this reporter that unless some “drastic” steps are taken well in advance, the BJP cannot be unseated from power in the next elections. Congress needs a “complete overhaul” in Chhattisgarh, they feel.
These Congress leaders said that senior leader Digvijaya Singh should be made the AICC in-charge of the state, instead of B.K. Hariprasad. According to them, Prasad does not understand the ground-level state politics. They said Digvijaya Singh, who knows the region and the party workers well, would be able to energise the cadre if he replaced Prasad.
They alleged that the present state unit president, Bhupesh Baghel, who took over in December 2013, has failed to deliver any positive results in the last three years and hence, the command should be handed over to someone with a “good profile” and wider acceptability. They suggested the names of T.S. Singhdeo (presently Congress Legislative Party leader), Charan Das Mahant (MP and former Minister of State in the Manmohan Singh government), Satyanarayan Sharma, Tamradhwaj Sahu and Ravindra Chaubey.
Despite the Congress being in a bad shape for a long time, the difference of votes between the BJP and the Congress was merely 0.75 % (BJP 41.04%, Congress 40.29%) in the last Assembly elections. In terms of the number of votes, the total difference (for all 90 constituencies) is just 80,000 votes. Thus, at the micro level, the average vote difference in every constituency is about 900. In an Assembly of 90, BJP has 49 seats, while Congress has 39.
“This was the situation when there was hardly any effort from the party high command to strengthen the Congress here. Imagine what will happen when a consolidated effort is applied. We are very close. Nobody can stop the Congress from coming to power if the high command gives a push,” said a Congress worker.
The Congress worker said that the high command has always neglected the old time Congress leaders, even during Jogi’s tenure. As a result, they got alienated from the party. Even the youths do not have any connect with the party.
“The high command is responsible for this state of affairs. They never paid attention to Chhattisgarh. Of course, Jogi also did nothing when he was in the party. But more than Jogi, the high command should be blamed as it did not take any corrective steps. The state Congress never took on the BJP with force,” rued another party worker.
According to a state BJP leader, Jogi’s new party will split the Congress votes, “which is good for us. Their strength has come down. We are in a more comfortable situation now. We are confident that BJP will come back to power once again in 2018.”