Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, who floated the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) after quitting the Congress, has formed an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) for the upcoming assembly elections in the state. He has decided that he will not contest the elections as a candidate and will campaign to strengthen the coalition which, he says, will form the next government in the state. Jogi spoke to Ritesh Mishra about his commitment to back Mayawati as prime minister, a possible post-poll tie-up with the Congress, and some of the key the issues facing Chhattisgarh. Edited Excerpts:With the elections just round the corner, how do you assess your preparations?We are doing very well and are in top gear. My meeting with candidates and my election rallies are drawing huge crowds, which signifies our popularity. We have already declared candidates for 45 seats while other parties have done nothing considerable in this regard. They are still lagging behind. I’m sure we will do very well.People were talking about you as a probable kingmaker. Now that a coalition with the Bahujan Samaj Party is in place, how do you assess your role in the elections?I don’t think I will be a kingmaker. I am aiming to be king. Why be a kingmaker? I am certain that our coalition with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Communist Party of India will help us attain majority. We will form the government of our own and will not need anybody.What if things do not turn out as per your expectations?Well, this is a hypothetical question. I am sure about attaining the majority and forming the government.Will you retire from politics if you lose the elections? Or, irrespective of the results, is it your last election?This is certainly not my last election. I was sick for 52 days, but now I have recovered from my bad phase and I’m touring extensively. I have almost completed one round of all 90 constituencies and will complete the second round before the elections.Who is your main rival — the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party? Is there a possibility of your party and the Congress coming together?I have never said that the Congress and I will come together. Nor have I said that the Congress is not our main rival. I have been explaining that the Congress has become extremely weak. Recently, one of their very important MLAs, their working president, joined the BJP. The infighting is so acute that the party high command had to form a presidium of seven persons. How can a party function in this manner?In case the Congress approaches you, would you form a post-poll alliance with it?There is no question of forming a coalition with either the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party in any situation. The people of Chhattisgarh, Mayawatiji, and the CPI are with me. I am sure of winning this election with a thumping majority.The Congress has been severely hit by an alleged CD scandal just before the elections which will perhaps affect its electoral prospects too. What is your opinion about this development?I will say that the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are involved in this CD affair. We are involved in the CG, that is Chhattisgarh, affair. It is not worth commenting about anyone of the stature of Bhupesh Baghel, who is the prime target of this scandal.The alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party has given you a big boost. What really led to this breakthrough after the failure of talks between the Congress and the BSP?Everyone knows that the Congress was desperately trying to win the support of Mayawatiji. We were also trying, but not at the top level. But one day I was called to Lucknow for negotiations. We were able to strike a deal and form a coalition within three hours of meeting each other owing to our dedication towards the poor, Dalits and Adivasi people. This clearly explains that why she prefers me over the Congress.Why did the talks between the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party fail?The Congress was bullying in its stance and was underplaying the national stature of the BSP and its leader. What I could gather from plain newspaper reading is that it was sheer arrogance that caused the failure of talks. Moreover, it is noteworthy and has been reiterated time and again by Mayawatiji that in case of a tie-up with the Congress, the votes of the BSP will surely be passed over to the Congress; however, Congress votes will never be polled in favour of the BSP. They will go mostly to the BJP and not to the elephant (BSP’s election symbol). Hence, such a coalition was not electorally practical as well as possible.Do you think the BSP should join hands with Congress in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 general elections to achieve the larger Opposition goal of defeating the BJP?In UP, the Congress has absolutely no presence except the two constituencies of the Gandhi family members. Even there, the situation in Amethi is very unfavourable. Moreover, the easy win of the Congress in Rai Bareli and Amethi may be attributed to the fact that socialist parties and the BSP do not field their candidates. In this background, I feel that UP needs an alliance of SP (Samajwadi Party) and BSP in order to defeat BJP.What if Congress joins this alliance in Uttar Pradesh? Would it change the fortune of the alliance and help it attain the larger goal?No. If the Congress will join the alliance, its vote will go to the BJP and will never get transferred to the alliance. That is why I feel that only the SP and the BSP should form an alliance.Is Mayawati your prime ministerial candidate, and if so, why?Since the time of the national freedom movement, all the great doyens have worked towards uplifting Dalits. A Dalit PM will be a fitting tribute to this process. Mayawatiji is a very able administrator with a proven track record. She is acceptable to all and would make an excellent prime minister. That is why I am backing her.What are the main issues that are affecting Chhattisgarh and why should people vote for you?I have filed an affidavit in the high court on a stamp paper of ~100 in which I have promised three-four things. First is about unemployed youth. There are 25 lakh (2.5 million) unemployed youth in our state. In these 15 years, no one has cared for them. They are utterly frustrated and are becoming deviants.I have promised that all state government jobs will be notified and the recruitment process shall be carried out briskly. Moreover, we will facilitate the setting up of industries by providing them all the required assistance, but our condition will be that 90% of the workforce should be from among these 25 lakh unemployed youth. Even after this, a large number will be left, for whom we will provide an unemployment allowance till we are able to provide them employment.I have also promised that we will impose total prohibition in the plain areas and not hilly areas of our state. This will be done keeping in mind the sensitivities of tribal people, who have their peculiar belief system. With the passage of time, we shall try to win them over by persuasion and impose complete prohibition.What is your view about the infighting in both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress?There is lot of infighting in the BJP but it never gets the type of publicity that it deserves. You see it everywhere, like in Bilaspur, Amar Agarwal is pitted against Kaushikji [Dharamlal Kaushik]. In Durg, Saroj Pandey is against Prem Prakash Pandey. They can’t even look at each other. Somehow the BJP has succeeded in hiding the intensity of this infighting.As far as the Congress is concerned, it is a free-for-all party. Nobody listens to anybody. The state president of the party openly abuses his boss. It is a continuous slugfest. There are seven persons nominated in the presidium — they are leading seven different groups and cannot tolerate each other.People say there are many leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress who are in contact with you and might approach you after the declaration of tickets? How many such leaders are in contact with you?Not many, but yes, a large number of Congress leaders and fewer number of BJP leaders are in contact with me. It’s mostly MLAs who are in contact with me. I cannot give the figures, but a substantial number of them are in contact. However, I cannot assure them a ticket. One or two might be able to secure a ticket from my party if they are strong enough in my assessment to deserve one. My priority will be my own party workers who have toiled day and night for the last two-and-a-half years.