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Congress does not have a face in Chhattisgarh who is hated like Ajit Jogi: PL Punia

HT spoke to Congress Chhattisgarh in-charge PL Punia on the party strategy for polls, issues that will be raised, alliance with BSP and Ajit Jogi factor.

chhattisgarh elections 2018 Updated: Aug 22, 2018 10:21 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Raipur
chhattisgarh assembly election 2018,chhattisgarh,PN Punia
File photograph of Congress leader PL Punia (Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Congress is bracing to take on the incumbent BJP government in Chhattisgarh and is confident of winning considering that Raman Singh has been in power for 15 years. Ritesh Mishra spoke to Congress Chhattisgarh in-charge Panna Lal Punia on the party strategy for polls, issues that will be raised, alliance with BSP and Ajit Jogi factor. Excerpts:

Raman Singh is doling out freebies such as free mobile phones and salary increments and so on. How do you plan to counter all this?

Raman Singh is fighting a lost battle. People are aware about the hollowness of this promise. People know it is their own money that is being re-routed to them through these superficial freebies. It would have been better had Singh created more employment avenues. The government has failed to implement social sector schemes and evidence of that is 30 lakh complaints Singh received during his Vikas Yatra.

You know that Congress lacks resources and manpower like BJP. How do you plan to deal with this?

It is true that BJP has no dearth of money. In this fight between people’s power and money, we are relying on the strength of our grass-root leadership. We have got in touch with party workers at booth levels and have trained our cadres through ‘Sankalp Shivirs’ to take on the BJP. I don’t think we are weak at the ground level as perceived. For motivating the ground level cadres, we made them interact with our leader Rahul Gandhi. By doing this, we have tried to ensure that our cadre is not poached by rivals.

Congress suffered huge loss among its Scheduled Caste vote-bank in the last election. What steps are being taken that the repeated does not happen in this election?

Ajit Jogi and his modus operandi of governance was the major reason behind Congress’ failure at the SC seats in last election. It must be understood that even at the SC reserved seats, mere SC votes are not sufficient for victory. For a victory, support of other communities is required. Ajit Jogi had alienated the traders, businessmen, OBCs, upper caste and urban people by his hostile style of working. Now, we do not have a face, who is hated by people like Jogi.

Ajit Jogi’s wife Renu Jogi is seeking ticket from Congress. What do you have to say?

Congress will follow its standard procedure for allocation of the tickets. Renu Jogi, being a Congress MLA, has all the right to apply for Congress ticket, and will have undergo the same screening process. Whether she gets the ticket or not will depend on the result of this process.

It is said that state Congress Chief Bhupesh Baghel has personal grudge against Ajit Jogi. What do you have to say?

It is not a grudge but a genuine concern of a dedicated party worker about a person who had been party’s nemesis and has back stabbed Congress for his own vested interests. It is a natural reaction that should not be given any other colour.

The Congress’ state executive has not been formed yet. Is infighting the reason for the delay?

There is no sign of infighting because all our top leaders are working in unison for the cause of party. There is no leadership vacuum. The sole reason behind the non-formation is our involvement in other important works such as organising Sankalp Shivirs, teaching ground level cadre etc. We shall very soon form the state executive.

Charan Das Mahant has said that Congress cannot give more than 5 seats to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). What will be the nature of coalition between Gondawana Ganatantra Party (GGP), BSP and Congress?

It is his personal opinion. We are still in process of forming a coalition. The intricacies regarding the seat sharing are yet to be finalised. In principle, we are for the alliance, but the real picture will emerge once everything is finalised.

BJP has declared that it will deny tickets of many sitting MLAs. Has Congress a similar plan?

Congress is not BJP in any aspect. Tickets will be given to the candidates depending upon their suitability on individual seat and their winnability.

Scheduled Tribe (ST) seats have been Congress bastion. What are you doing to retain them?

We have a strong team working assiduously in ST seats, especially in the Bastar region. Our party men from Telangana and Odisha are also there. I am sure we will do well in the ST seats also.

First Published: Aug 22, 2018 10:13 IST