The mood at Chhattisgarh Congress Bhavan, which has been facing protests over the selection of candidates, has worsened.
The Congress' decision to field former chief minister Ajit Jogi from the Mahasamund Lok Sabha constituency in place of two contenders affected by the Bastar attack of
2013 is proving to be the fresh trigger.
Earlier, the party's decision to change two candidates, including the one in state capital Raipur, led to the ransacking of the Congress office here.
A section of leaders, however, was hopeful of the Congress' prospects following two senior leaders — Charan Das Mahant (a minister in the UPA II government) and Jogi — joining the poll fray. Mahant and Jogi will contest the Korba and Mahasamund seats, respectively.
Some Congress leaders believed the duo would help the party improve its tally. The Congress won just one of the 11 seats in the 2004 and 2009 general elections, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bagged 10 seats.
But, resentment over Jogi's candidature is now playing a spoilsport. Protests stem from the denial of ticket to two contenders who have suffered the consequences of the Darbha incident in Bastar, where several Congress leaders were killed in an audacious Maoist attack on May 25 last year.
Pratibha Pandey, daughter of slain Congress leader VC Shukla, and Motilal Sahu, who survived after being hit by bullets, were hopeful of getting the Mahasamund ticket.
"After devoting everything for the Congress, my candidature was ignored. I felt humiliated... I am now resigning from the party," Sahu, who contested on a Congress ticket from Mahasamund in 2009 but lost, told HT.
Jogi, who won this seat in 2004, however, claimed that he never aspired to fight the polls. "I am just following the directive of our party president Soniaji (Sonia Gandhi)."
The biggest challenge to the Congress in the state is to bolster party workers and gather political momentum in the face of the combined effect of chief minister Raman Singh and BJP's prime minister nominee, Narendra Modi.
Three consecutive debacles in the assembly polls suffered by the Congress in Chhattisgarh have dampened the spirit of party workers.
"Winning two or three seats can restore some credibility by giving the Congress representation from the state...," one of the party spokesperson told HT.
The party has fielded five new faces and an equal number of OBCs to boost its prospects. Going by the voting trends seen during the assembly elections, Bastar in south and Sarguja in the north carry some hope for the Congress.
"The chances from other constituencies appear bleak. The Congress is not thinking beyond Jogi or Mahant. It lost the assembly election when the chances of winning were better.
"... but now, with struggling and confusion in the state Congress, the fear of hopeless results looms large," said political analyst Shashank Sharma.
State Congress president Bhupesh Baghel admitted the party was faced with odds, but said it would buck the trend to win more seats.
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