At least 20 senior Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh have filed their nominations in the assembly elections against the party’s official candidates. They include several ministers in the Ajit Jogi led Congress government which ran the state till 2003: Manoj Mandavi from Bhanupratapur, Ganguram Baghel from Arang, Tuleshwar Singh from Premnagar, former legislator Lokendra Yadav from Balod and sitting legislator Chandrabhan Bharmate from Mungeli in Bilaspur district. Many of them are believed to be close to Jogi.
“If such a situation continues till the elections, it will be very difficult for us to wrest power from the BJP,” said Rajesh Bissa, spokesperson of the state Congress. “However, we are trying our level best to convince all the rebels to retire from the fray in the larger interest of the party,” he added. Bissa claimed that the criterion for allotment of party tickets was purely on winning prospects of a candidate.
“It is only the Congress that defeats the Congress in Chhattisgarh and not the BJP,” quipped Bissa. State Congress treasurer Paras Chopda too noted that the party suffered a humiliating defeat in 2003 only because a section of disgruntled Congressmen joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) under the leadership of veteran Vidya Charan Shukla. "We lost the battle in 23 assembly constituencies because the NCP split the vote. If the party had fought a united battle, it would have been a different picture today," he said.
"We are once again experiencing a tricky situation within the party at a time when the people of the state want a change," Chopda added.
In contrast, the BJP is going to the voters with its development plank after dropping "unpopular" MLAs as a strategy to minimise the impact of the anti-incumbency factor and retain power.
Initiating what is called the Gujarat Pattern, the party has denied party tickets to 18 sitting legislators. Rasik Parmar of the state BJP’s media chief said the BJP had dropped some of the sitting MLAs on the basis of the political and social realities in their constituencies.
In Gujarat elections in 2007, the party retained power defying all anti-incumbency factors by dropping 47 sitting legislators. The party managed to retain 34 of these seats forming almost 30 per cent of the strength of the party and that helped send Narendra Modi back to the chief ministerial post.