Ajit Jogi draws on SC, ST support in Chhattisgarh to dent Congress, BJP chances

Former chief minister Ajit Jogi has fielded his son Amit Jogi’s wife from a non-reserved seat on a BSP ticket for the upcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh. He and his wife Renu Jogi are Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) candidates from Marwahi and Kota in neighbouring Bilaspur.

Updated: Nov 19, 2018 20:37:31

By Kumar Uttam

Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh party has forged a tie up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) in these assembly elections. (Sonu Mehta/HT File )

For Richa Jogi, a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate in Chhattisgarh election, the surname counts.

Her motorcade enters the weekly market at Kotmi Sonar village to slogans -- Abki Baar Jogi Sakrar and Ee Dari Jogi Ke Baari (Jogi government this time). She jumps out of her SUV even before it comes to a halt.

The woman, dressed in a printed red saree, has her hands folded in front of voters, and she makes a point to touch the feet of elders. “Do vote for the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party],” she tells everyone in the local dialect.

Jogi is no ordinary candidate. She is the daughter-in-law of former chief minister Ajit Jogi and is making her electoral debut from Akaltara in the Janjgir-Champa district, upsetting all poll calculations in the Congress bastion.

“She is giving a tough fight to the Congress and the BJP,” said Pratap Chandrakar, as he counts his earnings from the sale of snacks at the weekly market. He is awed by the presence of a ‘star’ candidate in an otherwise neglected part of the state.

Jogi has fielded his son Amit Jogi’s wife from a non-reserved seat on a BSP ticket. He and his wife Renu Jogi are Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) candidates from Marwahi and Kota in neighbouring Bilaspur.

Together, the BSP and JCC are giving sleepless night to both the Congress and the BJP in Jogi’s pocket borough districts of Bilaspur, Janjgir-Champa and Mungeli. In the last assembly election in 2013, the BJP won eight, the Congress six and the BSP just one of the 15 seats across these three districts.

“Unlike the popular perception, Jogi is also hurting the BJP,” psephologist Sudip Shrivastava said. BJP strongman Vyas Kashyap defected to the JCC after being denied a ticket in Janjgir-Champa. Sitting Congress MLA from Bilha in Bilaspur, Siyaram Kaushik, is a JCC candidate this time.

“We are sure of winning 42 seats, the fate of next 8-10 seats depends on the performance of Jogi,” a close aide of chief minister Raman Singh said. A party needs 46 seats for a simple majority in the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly. Singh, however, is confident that the BJP will cross its 2013 tally of 49 seats. The Congress won 39.

The 2013 election was a close contest, as the difference between the BJP and the Congress was a meagre 97,574 votes, or 0.75% of the total votes cast.

The ‘Jogi Phenomenon’

The Jogi element is a new phenomena in this election and he counts on two factors to mark his presence felt in his first election after leaving the Congress.

First, the BSP has strong presence in this region and any addition to it can spring a surprise. BSP founder Kanshi Ram contested his maiden election for the Lok Sabha from Janjgir -- then in undivided Madhya Pradesh -- in 1984. It won one seat of Janjgir in 2013 assembly election, stood second in two other seats of the district and polled more than 20,000 votes in five other constituencies across Bilaspur, Baloda Bazar and Raigarh. The BSP polled at least 558,000 votes in the last election with a share of 4.4%. This time, the BSP has fielded candidates in 35 and Jogi’s JCC on 55 seats.

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Second, Jogi has roped in strong candidates from both the BJP and the Congress. On seats where the BSP has limited appeal, he borrowed candidates, such as sitting or former legislators and those denied tickets by the BJP and the Congress. Jogi counts on his personal appeal among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the region to make the difference.

“The JCC-BSP alliance is not a spoiler. We are here to win the election,” Jogi said.

Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken is unsure about Jogi’s potential to hurt the Congress. “His image was a problem. His walking out of Congress is helping us,” he said.

Chief Minister Raman Singh agrees a pact with Jogi will make the BSP a stronger force, but insist that their impact will be limited to a few districts. “We hope he will hurt the Congress more,” Singh said.

Sunil Jangre, president of the Chhattisgarh Satnam Mahasangh in Takhpur block of Bilaspur, walked out of the Congress when Jogi decided to form his own party.

The mahasangh is a sociocultural body of influential Satnami community, to which Jogi belongs, and has a dedicated army of 10-15 young men in every village.

“We owe allegiance to Jogi and followed him out of the Congress,” Jangre said. The BSP candidate from Takhatpur in 2013 election, Santosh Kasuhik, is contesting on the symbol of Jogi’s party this time.

Click on this link for complete coverage of assembly elections

First Published: Nov 19, 2018 13:05:58


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