RAIPUR: Former Chattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi has, since his split from Congress, hinted to both his former party as well as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress saying that his new party, Janata Congress Chattisgarh (J) will emerge as a formidable force with 90 Assembly seats.
“I am independent now. Regional parties are now playing a major role in Indian politics,” he had said in June after quitting the Congress.
With Assembly elections in 2018, the wheelchair-bound Jogi covered 19,800 km by road and helicopter to address 64 rallies in 27 days last month. He had quit the Congress in June last year, six months after his son Amit was expelled from the party. Jogi’s wife Renu is a Congress MLA.
Jogi’s party may be a litmus test for the Congress, which has suffered three consecutive debacles in Chhattisgarh. He will also challenge the ruling BJP. He has pledged for a “Raman-mukt (free from CM Raman Singh) Chhattisgarh while launching Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J).
“The BJP in power in the mineral-rich state for 13 years has taken the state backward with rampant corruption and misrule. Congress fell short of delivering the role of an effective Opposition. People are seeing us with hope. We have released our welfare agenda (manifesto) much before the elections,” Jogi said.
For Jogi, there was no other way to revive himself politically after being marginalised by the Congress party.
Raman Singh said Jogi emerging as a “third force” will not affect his party but will harm the Congress.
The “unpredictable” Jogi will have to prove himself to his followers and the masses. His stakes are high in constituencies with a substantial vote base of Dalits and tribals.
Congress leaders once close to him say Congress legislators might hesitate to go with Jogi, though some former party MLAs and leaders may cross over.
“The Congress gave Jogi recognition. Controversies such as the Jaggi murder case, his tribal status, the Maoist attack on a Congress convoy at Jhiram and the Antagarh tape will decimate him. People always wished to see
Congress without Jogi, who endured the party’s defeat in three Assembly elections”, state Congress president Bhupesh Baghel said.
Ever since Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, regional parties have failed to lure voters. National Congress Party (NCP) led by V C Shukla in 2003 won one seat, Bahujan Samaj Party has one MLA and Chhattisgarh Swabhimaan Manch hasn’t made its presence felt.