Senior Congress leader Ajit Jogi seems to hold the key to the party's electoral fortunes in Chhattisgarh, notwithstanding the blame senior leaders put on him for the defeat in the assembly elections last year.
After the assembly poll debacle, a majority of Congress seniors suggested that the party needed to look beyond Jogi to stage a comeback in the state, which was a Congress citadel till 2003 after which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took over.
The Congress in Chhattisgarh lacks a leader of the stature of Jogi or the public support the former chief minister commands among all communities. Now the Congress is again looking up to him to contain the BJP for the April 16 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP had won 10 of the 11 seats in the 2004 general elections. The lone Congress seat, of Mahasamund, was bagged by Jogi defeating his one-time party colleague VC Shukla, who contested in 2004 as BJP candidate. Shukla, who rejoined the party in late 2007, is lobbying hard to get a ticket for the April polls.
The wheel chair-bound Jogi resigned as MP in December after being elected to the assembly from Marwahi and announced he would be keeping away from active politics for one year due to poor health.
Ticket aspirants in the Congress and even those in the anti-Jogi camp here are now openly saying that the party needs Jogi.
"Jogi has a solid hold across the state and across communities as well. The party must not ignore him in the Lok Sabha as it will send out a wrong message," Vani Rao, state Congress women cell chief told IANS. Rao, an aspirant for the Bilaspur seat, belongs to the anti-Jogi camp.
Another party leader from the anti-Jogi camp, said: "The party should either field Jogi or in case he refuses, someone from his family. It could be his MLA wife Renu Jogi or son Amit Jogi."
"The problem is there is no alternative presently to Jogi in the party. All his rivals failed to manage wins in the assembly polls, including state president Dhanendra Sahu or then leader of opposition Mahendra Karma and deputy leader of the opposition Bhupesh Baghel," said a party source requesting anonymity.
The BJP on March 5 announced candidates for all the 11 seats, but the Congress is yet to finalise names. It has merely prepared a panel of candidates with Amit Jogi's name for the Korba seat after 30 of the party's total 38 legislators said they wanted the junior Jogi to launch his political career next month.