Leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh, Tribhuwaneshwar Saran Singh Deo, talks to Ejaz Kaiser about how former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s exit from the Congress will help his party fight against the ruling BJP. Excerpts:
What about the three terms of the Raman Singh-led BJP government in Chhattisgarh?
Raman Singh first gained popularity with the `2 per kg rice scheme. His second term saw a decline with many unkept promises such as shiksha karmi, Jersey cows for tribals, a pull back from paddy bonus, no employment allowance, farmers issues, etc. The third term was a gift from the Opposition, Jogi built on the Jhiram Ghati (Maoist) massacre that liquidated the top Congress leadership in 2013.
Isn’t the Congress performing below expectations also responsible for BJP to return to power?
Yes, but with Jogi’s exit from the Congress, that factor is minimal. Under Nand Kumar Patel, the party was galvanised and would have won had he not been eliminated in the 2013 Maoist attack.
Is Jogi’s new party Janta Congress Chhattisgarh a challenge?
Jogi’s departure has got Congress going on party building rather than being distracted by groupism.
How is the BJP government treating the Opposition in Chhattisgarh?
The Opposition is not taken into confidence on any issue. The BJP government’s treatment is step-motherly and of disdain.
Can BJP chief Amit Shah lure Congress leaders?
Neither Amit Shah or any opposition should ever be taken lightly. Congress must strengthen itself and stand by the people of Chhattisgarh to gain their confidence.
How important is the caste factor in Chhattisgarh politics?
Caste considerations are a fact of the Indian social mileu. Politically, Chhattisgarh has been far less affected by class or caste considerations like Thakur-Brahmin, Upper Caste-Dalit, Hindu-Muslim, OBC or Upper Caste.
Jairam Ramesh said Congress is facing an existential crisis.
It’s a free country, and Jairamji expressed his opinion. Congress suffered badly in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but to say it is existentially threatened is taking it a bit too far.
Under whose leadership will the Congress challenge the ruling BJP? And the possible CM face?
Congress vice-president is on record saying the party will be led in the 2018 elections by party state president and Congress legislative party leader. CM face is not yet announced.
Does the Congress lag behind BJP in preparations and election management?
Congress has geared up and is preparing for elections with commitment not clouded by over confidence or lethargy.