On April 2, the core committee of the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) decided that its founder, former chief minister Ajit Jogi, will not contest the Lok Sabha election. With this, the almost three-year-old JCC bowed out of the contest in all 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state, announcing that it would support the candidates fielded by the Bahujan Samaj Party, its alliance partner in the assembly election in December.
Although the JCC and the BSP together won seven seats in the 90-member state assembly and a 12 per cent vote share in that election-not bad for a party that had barely two months to campaign after it was granted an election symbol-the party set up by Jogi is facing an identity crisis after the Congress won a three-fourths majority in the state.
Jogi had been touring the Korba constituency of late, triggering speculation that he might contest from there. But now that he is not contesting, the party will become more vulnerable to desertions; already there has been attrition in its worker base. What are Jogi’s options? He could go back to the Congress but the party and its present leadership in the state are not amenable to the idea. “By contesting the assembly poll, Jogi has exposed his weaknesses. We were told he is a mass leader but we won a landslide majority even though he was out,” chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said.
Explaining why he is not contesting, Jogi said, “Contesting the Lok Sabha is an expensive proposition and my party is not flush with funds. We considered everything and decided to not contest. “We have decided to support the BSP candidates everywhere.” It’s an open secret in Chhattisgarh, though, that the BSP is not keen to continue with the alliance. “My plan is to build the party over the next five years. We are a state party and we’ll focus on the panchayat and local body polls,” Jogi said, when asked about future plans. Jogi knows, of course, that local body polls are influenced by the ruling party and it is also hard to remain relevant as a marginal player in opposition, but his options are limited.