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'Formidable' Congress in Chhattisgarh Says it Doesn't Need Allaince

The Congress, which has 39 seats in the 91-member Chhattisgarh Assembly, is seeking to wrest power from the BJP which has ruled the state for about 15 years.


Updated:June 24, 2018, 12:50 PM IST
'Formidable' Congress in Chhattisgarh Says it Doesn't Need Allaince
Picture for representation. (Getty Images)
New Delhi: The Congress is a 'formidable force' in Chhattisgarh and is capable of winning the assembly polls without an alliance, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of the state P L Punia today said, asserting that the party is on a strong footing with Ajit Jogi not in its ranks.

He said the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Gondwana Ganatantra Party wield some influence in the state, but the Congress has not started any formal dialogue or interaction with them.

"We are a formidable force and we don't need an alliance with any party," he told PTI in an interview.

"If alliance happens, well and good, otherwise we are confident that the Congress party alone would be able to form the government very very comfortably," Punia said.

Asked if lack of a mass leader from the state may hamper Congress's chances in the assembly polls slated for this year, he said that though the party's state leadership was wiped out in 2013 Jeeram Ghati Naxal attack, there are still important and dynamic leaders such as PCC president Bhupesh Baghel, leader of opposition in the Assembly T S Singh Deo and Charan Das Mahant.

"We have important leaders in the OBC, in general caste, in tribals, and all over. So, we don't see any major problem that we do not have a towering personality as a leader of the party (in the state), but we have sufficient talent, sufficient expertise and sufficient leadership to take on the BJP.

The Congress, which has 39 seats in the 91-member Chhattisgarh Assembly, is seeking to wrest power from the BJP which has ruled the state for about 15 years.

"Why we lost the last election was because of the betrayal by some of the leaders from inside," the Rajya Sabha MP said.
Asked if he was referring to former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, Punia answered in the affirmative.

He said Jogi was a very important leader in the Congress and used to 'dictate' terms in the distribution of tickets.

Punia alleged that Jogi also used to try and sabotage the election prospects of his perceived opponents who could be a challenge to him in terms of chief ministership.

"Now we don't have Ajit Jogi with us, he has formed his own party, good luck to him. The Congress party is free from all those elements who used to damage the party from inside," said Punia, who was brought in by the Congress as general secretary in-charge of the state in July 2017.

Asked if Jogi, who left the Congress in 2016 and formed the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress party, could cut into its votes, Punia said that when Jogi had drawn flak from various sections of the society during his tenure as chief minister with because of his working and policies.

"Now he is not with us, they are not allergic to any face which we have in the Congress party, so automatically those votes would come to us. In a way, his going from the Congress would be beneficial to us and damage Bhartiya Janata Party," he said.

The senior Congress leader asserted that his party was on a strong footing in the state and claimed that the general impression about the BJP and the working of the state government under Chief Minister Raman Singh was that there was "rampant corruption".

"There are corruption charges against the entire Raman Singh family -- his wife, his son, his distant relations. And the entire Cabinet, I say with responsibility --- there are very serious charges of corruption against them and people are aware of it," Punia alleged.

The people of Chhattisgarh expected that at least the schemes which were meant for poor people, the scheduled caste the scheduled tribes, would be implemented and the benefits would be delivered to them without any bias, but that did not happen, he said.

All these factors go against the BJP and with the background of losing by less than 1 per cent vote share last time, the Congress is sure of emerging victorious in the assembly polls, Punia said.

"We have focussed our energies on strengthening the grassroots organisation at the booth-level. Even further down the booth-level...We trained the booth in-charges and held a training programme in 85 seats.

"Interaction of committees, of office bearers, was also arranged with Congress president Rahul Gandhi at two division levels -- one is Bilaspur and the other is Durg... the grassroots worker is motivated, energised and trained to take on any challenge which might come during the election or before the election," Punia asserted.

On the Congress not projecting a chief ministerial face in Chhattisgarh, he said it has been a policy of the party not to announce the CM face before the elections in normal course.

"It is not always done even by the BJP. In UP, they never announced Yogi Adityanath's (candidature)...In Karnataka they did, we also did, because we had a current chief minister," he said.

"In my personal view, not declaring a chief minister's face would be an advantage because every section of the society would have the impression that our leader might get a chance. So everybody gets motivated," Punia said.

Asked about BJP chief Amit Shah reportedly setting a target of winning 65 seats in the state, Punia said, "As far as I am concerned, our effort is on all the 90 seats and we are focussing our energies on all the 90 seats. So they may be having mission 65, I have mission 90."

He also expressed confidence of the Congress forming governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in assembly polls slated for this year.

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