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Setback to Congress as party’s Chhattisgarh chief joins BJP ahead of polls

Ramdayal Uike was a BJP MLA from the Marwahi seat in 2003, when he joined the Congress and resigned his seat to make way for Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh.

chhattisgarh elections 2018 Updated: Oct 13, 2018 23:16 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Raipur
Chattisagarh,Ajit Jogi,Bharatiya Janata Party
Congress Chhattisgarh working president and Pali-Tanakhar MLA Ramdayal Uike joins the BJP in the presence of Amit Shah and state chief minister Raman Singh on October 13.(Twitter/BJP Chhattisgarh)

Chhattisgarh Congress working president and tribal leader Ramdayal Uike joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday, accusing the grand old party of “neglecting” tribal leaders in its fold.

On the same day, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi launched the poll campaign of their alliance, announced last month, in Bilaspur.

The BSP will contest 35 seats and Jogi’s Janata Congress 55 seats in the 90-member assembly.

Uike, a well-known tribal face of the Congress in the Bilaspur region, said tribal leaders were being neglected in the Congress. “There is a difference in what they (Congress) say and what they do,” Uike said.

Chhattisgarh will vote in a two-phase assembly election in November.

The Congress is seeking to end the uninterrupted 15-year rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Uike was a BJP MLA from the Marwahi seat in 2003, when he joined the Congress and resigned his seat to make way for Jogi, the first chief minister of the state. Jogi left the Congress in 2016 to start his own party, the Janata Congress.

“Congress has neglected the interest of tribals, backward and poor people. Chief Minister Raman Singh has been making efforts for development of tribals and backward people and his development policies have impressed me and I am rejoining the home party,” Uike said, describing his move as “ghar-wapsi” (homecoming).

Congress spokesperson Sailesh Nitin Trivedi said Uike’s joining the BJP was no loss for the party which, he added, has may other prominent tribal leaders. “Till yesterday, he was very active in the Congress which suggests that a conspiracy took place last night,” he said.

“ Uike came back to us because of the infighting within the Congress. The party is apathetic towards the tribals and their leaders and hence tribal leaders are not happy in Congress “ Sachhinand Upasane, BJP spokesperson said.

Polls in Chhattisgarh will take place in two phases; the 18 assembly seats in the Maoist affected Bastar region will go to polls on November 12 and the remaining 72 on November 20. The counting of votes will take place on December 7 together with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Telangana.

Meanwhile, Mayawati accused the BJP of raking up the Ayodhya Ram temple issue for electoral gains and claimed that mob-lynching in the name of cow protection was happening in BJP-ruled states. She also questioned why the BJP was not responding to repeated questions on the controversial Rafale jet fighter deal, but blamed both the Congress and the BJP for irregularities that have taken place in defence deals.

The BJP and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government have denied any wrongdoing in the Rafale deal. The party has also disassociated itself from the mob lynchings, noting that action has been taken against suspects.

First Published: Oct 13, 2018 23:15 IST