AICC general secretary incharge of Chhattisgarh B K Hariprasad says he does not think rebel Congress leader Ajit Jogi will raise the banner of revolt now. Anita Katyal reports
The Congress has not taken kindly to senior party leader (former Chhattisgarh CM) Ajit Jogi’s declaration that he is in the race for the Chhattisgarh chief minister’s post.
“That’s all right, every Congress leader has a right to make such claims but the final decision is taken by the elected MLAs in consultation with the party president and vice-president,” said AICC general secretary incharge of Chhattisgarh B K Hariprasad.
Jogi had maintained in recent media reports that he is keen on becoming Chhattisgarh chief minister since the Congress is all set to form the next government in the state. Jogi did not contest the assembly elections.
Jogi, who was the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh after the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh, has made no bones that he wants his old job back. He has made every possible effort to pressurise the party leadership to project him for the top post.
Setting the record straight in an exclusive interview to rediff.com, Hariprasad was quick to point out, “Individuals may have their ambitions and aspirations but as far as the party is concerned, there are certain procedures and conventions which are followed before such decisions are taken.”
He said, as is always the case, the Central party leadership sends two observers to the state capital to ascertain the views of the elected legislators which, in turn, are conveyed to party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Asked if the party is worried that Jogi could stir up trouble if the Congress succeeds in ousting the ten-year-old BJP-led government in Chhattisgarh, Hariprasad did not appear overly concerned about such a possibility. “Now that the elections are over, there is not much scope for Jogi to lead a rebellion in the party,” Hariprasad said.
Hariprasad admitted that the party was worried when Jogi had threatened a rebellion in the run-up to the assembly polls, even going as far as naming his own candidates.
Keen to put up a united front, Hariprasad said the party stepped up its efforts to placate Jogi, who had demanded tickets for his wife Renu Jogi and son Amit Jogi besides being projected as the next Congress chief ministerial candidate.
It was only after several rounds of prolonged discussions that the Congress was able buy peace with Jogi. “Although he resisted initially... ultimately the party and Jogi had a compromise... we agreed to accommodate his wife and son but not to his projection as the chief minister,” said Hariprasad, adding that Jogi was instead promised a ticket in next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The party took care not to give in to Jogi’s demand to name him chairman of the party’s election campaign committee and instead entrusted this job to his bête noire, AICC treasurer Motilal Vora.
Realising Jogi’s potential to create problems for the party during the elections, the Congress leadership was keen on getting him on board. At the same time, the party could ill-afford to project Jogi as its chief ministerial candidate as it would have been used by the BJP to stir up memories about his unpopular stint as CM. As a result, the party softened the rebellious Jogi by agreeing to two of his demands.
Having got Jogi’s full cooperation in the recently-concluded Chhattisgarh elections, Hariprasad did not think that Jogi will raise the banner of revolt now. And even if he did, he was confident, Jogi would not succeed in his endeavour.
The Congress leader, however, parried all questions about the party’s chief ministerial contenders. “There are so many senior and capable MLAs who have won several elections. Ultimately, caste and community considerations also come into play,” Hariprasad maintained.
Although Charan Das Mahant, president of the Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee is being mentioned as a front runner, AICC treasurer Motilal Vora is also stated to be in the race. “I cannot say at this juncture if the party would prefer somebody who is not an MLA,” said Hariprasad.
He reiterated that the choice would be determined by the elected MLAs. He recalled how Jogi had been confident of being named the leader of opposition as he believed he enjoyed the backing of a majority of the legislators. “But that was not the case. Ravindra Chaubey was selected instead. So many factors are at work in such cases,” he added.
Like Jogi, he was confident of a Congress win in Chhattisgarh. “We are going to form the next government,” Hariprasad declared, adding that the Congress had not only run a cohesive campaign but its ticket distribution had been “near perfect.”
“We did not pick candidates on the basis of their loyalty to any particular group...we went purely by winnability,” said Hariprasad. The Congress, he said, was able to tap into the anti-incumbency against the Raman Singh government.
“Hundreds of people have been killed in Naxal attacks. This time, people realised that the Congress is the only party which has done any work for the tribals while the Raman Singh government was seen to be hand in glove with the Naxals,” Hariprasad added.