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Congress, BJP to keep away from ‘king-maker’Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh polls

Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress has already announced candidates for 30 seats in Chhattisgarh, the first among major parties to do so.

chhattisgarh elections 2018 Updated: Jun 09, 2018 23:50 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Raipur
Ajit Jogi,Chhattisagarh polls,Janata Congress
First chief minister of Chhattisgarh and founder of Janata Congress Ajit Jogi in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

Both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will maintain distance from former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress in the upcoming Chhattisgarh assembly elections for different reasons, leaders of the two parties said.

The BJP believes Jogi’s party will harm the Congress by cutting its votes if it contests separately. Congress leaders say Jogi is a “spent force” and they prefer an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Gondwana Ganathantra Party (GGP) to prevent the division of Dalit and tribal votes.

Theoretically, Jogi can play spoilsport for the Congress considering that the vote share difference between the Grand Old Party and the BJP in the 2013 assembly election was 1% even though the saffron party won 10 more seats.

The BJP won 49 seats and received 41.33% votes. The Congress, with Jogi, who has influence in the Bilaspur region and tribal belts, got 40.33% votes. Jogi left the Congress after his son and then Congress legislator Amit Jogi was suspended in 2016 for anti-party activities.

Both the Congress and BJP had improved their vote share in the last assembly elections at the cost of smaller parties and independents. In 2008, the difference in vote share between the two parties was 1.72%.

The Congress’s chief strategist in Chhattisgarh, Vinod Verma, admitted that Jogi can eat into the party votes but said he will damage the BJP equally. “(Jogi) Claiming to be a kingmaker is a myth,” he said, adding that the party is looking at an alliance with the BSP and GGP.

The BSP won a single seat and received 4.76% of the votes in 2013. The GGP got a 5% vote share. In 2008, the BSP had got 6.11% of the total votes.

BJP spokesperson Sacchinand Upasane said the party’s winning margin will increase because of Jogi as he will dent the Congress vote bank. He added that the BJP has its own vote bank and has nothing to do with the former chief minister.

Jogi’s party has already announced candidates for 30 seats, the first among major parties to do so. “We have declared candidates for 30 constituencies till now and we will contest in all 90 seats. Both the BJP and Congress are rattled by people’s support for us in the last two years,” Amit Jogi said.

Leaders in both BJP and Congress accept that Jogi has a following among Dalits, Muslims and Christians in over a dozen constituencies and has the potential to swing the results in favour or against the two parties in the polls.

Political commentator Alok Putul said Jogi is a mass leader but converting his popularity into votes this time may be difficult. “Jogi will surely be a deciding factor in half a dozen assembly seats but still I don’t see him as a kingmaker,” he said.

The Chhattisgarh assembly has 90 assembly seats, of which 29 are reserved for tribals and 10 for scheduled castes. In another 40 seats, the population of scheduled castes is more than 10%, which is said to be Jogi’s pocket of influence. Political experts say he has no hold among other backward classes, who constitute about 48% of the state’s population.

However, the Jogi factor in Chhattisgarh polls hinges on his health as he was admitted in a Gurugram hospital about a fortnight ago.

First Published: Jun 09, 2018 15:46 IST