Jogi-Shukla will be 'mother of all battles'
In one deft stroke, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has increased the political temperature in Chhattisgarh and turned the contest for Mahasamund into a "mother of all battles".
Gandhi's dramatic decision Tuesday to field former chief minister Ajit Jogi in the Mahasamund Lok Sabha constituency is worrying both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its nominee Vidya Charan Shuila though both are putting up a brave face.
The Congress appears to have complicated the poll arithmetic of Mahasamund, and the very stature of Jogi is worrying the BJP although the performance of the December assembly elections should not cause any undue worry to the BJP.
In December, the Congress won just one assembly seat in the constituency, Brindanwagarh, losing to BJP all other seven segments by huge margins.
The one point that favours the Congress is that the Mahasamund seat was in 1999 won by veteran party leader Shyama Charan Shukla, who defeated BJP's Chandrasekhar Sahu by 15,435 votes in 1999.
Shyama Charan Shukla is the elder brother of V.C. Shukla and he has shifted to Raipur this time. Raipur has traditionally belonged to his younger brother.
Even at several meetings, the Shukla senior said he gave up the claim for Mahasamund to avoid a fight with his brother. Despite being in different camps, the Shukla brothers do not speak anything against each other.
The tacit move of Congress to pitch Jogi against V.C. Shukla has made the contest a battle of nerves. The BJP is keen to ensure Shukla's victory as his defeat will fan factionalism in the state BJP unit.
"We will leave no stone unturned for Shukla's victory, we want to see him in national politics," a BJP leader told IANS.
He said Shukla's possible defeat would only add more problems to the state unit.
"We really do not have anyone in our party in the state matching the stature of Shukla," a BJP leader commented.
But BJP state president Nandkumar Sai said his party would not underestimate Jogi.
"Jogi has the ability to deliver the knock-out punch, especially in the last minute," he said.
"We will be extra careful in Mahasamund as Jogi has proved that he is one of the greatest political strategists," Sai added.