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Mayawati’s tie-up with Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh is a message to Congress

Mayawati said Ajit Jogi will be chief minister if the BSP-Janta Congress Chhattisgarh alliance wins the assembly election.

Updated: Sep 21, 2018 10:47:10

By Aloke Tikku

BSP supremo Mayawati and Janata Congress (Chhatisgarh) president Ajit Jogi during a press conference in Lucknow on Thursday. (PTI)

Delivering a sound blow to the Congress’ efforts to gather a team opposition, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Thursday announced an alliance with former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s party for the Chhattisgarh assembly elections later this year, forcing a triangular contest for the first time in the history of the tribal state. Ajit Jogi was expelled by the Congress two years ago.

Mayawati also named 22 candidates for neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, where too her party has been in talks with the Congress, but they have been unable to agree on seat sharing.

Her announcements are seen as a strong message to the Congress that the BSP has other options if it is not given what Mayawati has called a “respectable” number of seats to contest. Only last week she made it clear that would be her criterion for joining a joint opposition bid to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha electioms.

She asserted that again on Thursday: “You must already know that much is being written about BSP and alliances. I have only said one thing- whichever party we ally with, we need respectable seats.”



Mayawati said her party would contest 35 of Chhattisgarh’s 90 seats, while Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress would contest 55, adding, “If we win, Ajit Jogi will be the chief minister.”

 

The BSP’s talks with the Congress fell through in Chhattisgarh reportedly because the Congress was unwilling to concede more than seven to nine seats.

In Chhattisgarh, which has traditionally seen a two-party fight between the BJP and the Congress, governments are decided by wafer-thin margins and Mayawati’s decision to force a triangular contest could benefit the BJP.

In the last assembly election, the difference between the votes polled by the BJP and the Congress was less than 98,000 votes.

The BSP fielded candidates in all 90 assembly segments in 2013, won 1 seat and polled 558,000 votes with a share of 4.4%. But there were 12 seats where its candidates polled more than 10 per cent vote share. In five of these, they had polled over 20 per cent.

Jogi has been trying to turn the Chhattisgarh polls into a triangular fight, but his party is an untested entity in the state. The former Congress veteran founded his party in 2016 along with his son after being expelled from the Congress.

The new alliance is also seen as part of Mayawati’s 2019 plan where she wants to expand her party’s reach beyond Uttar Pradesh. She already has an alliance with Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka and Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana.

Mayawati’s announcement of 22 candidates for Madhya Pradesh is seen as a move to pressure the Congress, which has been attempting to convince the BSP to accept a smaller number of seats to contest in a partnership than it has demanded.

The Congress wants to wrest Madhya Pradesh back from the BJP after 15 years in what is seen as a two-party contest. In the 2013, the BJP had retained the state winning 165 seats, while the Congress had won 58. The BSP could win only four.

First Published: Sep 20, 2018 18:27:37

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