The reputation of Ajit Jogi as a political mastermind dwarfs his achievements as a politician. So when Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh and now the founder of the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) party, decided to launch his own outfit and decided not to partner with any major party in the state, it was a sign of worry for the latter. No one clearly knows who he is going to damage more, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Congress. By deciding to fight the upcoming elections with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as an ally, Jogi has certainly left the competition jittery.
Speaking to Firstpost, Jogi, who despite quitting the Congress two years ago continues to enjoy a national recall, unlike other leaders in the Congress, reveals his stand on matters that concern Chhattisgarh and on other parties.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Your wife Dr Renu Jogi, a sitting MLA from Chhattisgarh's Kota constituency has been a loyal soldier of the Congress who didn't switch over to your party and decided to remain with the Congress. But at the last moment, the Congress denied her a ticket. Your take.
The Congress not giving a ticket to Dr Renu Jogi is an internal matter of their party, so I won't comment much on this. However, I would just like to mention that it's part of the "ABJ" (Anybody But Jogi) strategy of the state unit of the Congress that has been in practice since 2003.
I had been trying to persuade Renu to join my party, but because of her family relations with Sonia Gandhi, she had been with the Congress for the past two and a half years. What can be a bigger testimonial to her loyalty for the Congress than the fact that she put her affiliation with the party much above the husband-wife relationship? Yet the Congress could not recognise her dedication for the party and also tried to separate her from Kota, which is just like family to her.
She cannot be isolated from Kota, which is why she is now contesting the polls on a JCC ticket.
You continue to be a leader in Chhattisgarh with a high national recall value. There has been a leadership vacuum in the Congress since you quit. Do you think this will work to your advantage?
It's an ironical situation that the Congress has a number of chief ministerial aspirants but does not have a single face that can be projected in Chhattisgarh. All their so-called leaders are confined to their own constituencies. This is definitely working to their disadvantage.
As goes the famous saying, too many cooks spoil the broth. We saw this situation earlier in 2008 and 2013, when all the so-called chief ministerial aspirants lobbied before the high command for the top post just before the results. But when the results were declared, these aspirants did not win even their own seats.
As far as my party, rather my alliance, is concerned, we are not concerned with this as it is an internal matter of the Congress. Our fight is with the BJP. The Congress has become irrelevant. We are committed to uprooting the Raman Singh-led BJP government in Chhattisgarh.
Will the combined strength of the BSP and your party be enough to defeat the BJP? The BSP does not have a big vote share in Chhattisgarh.
Rather than considering the vote share (which reflects the overall votes for a party in the entire state), you need to look into the constituency-wise votes that the BSP has been getting in all the elections. As India follows the "First-Past-the-Post" electoral system, what matters is the constituency-wise votes, not the overall vote share. If we look at the Assembly-wise votes the Congress and BSP secured in 2003, 2008 and 2013 elections, it is clear that combining them could have secured them a majority in these elections, which clearly indicates that the BJP would not have come to power at all in Chhattisgarh.
The Congress has become irrelevant now. People don't have any hope from the Congress, and that is why they have been voting for the BJP, despite the misrule of the Raman Singh government. Now, they have a clear cut alternative before them with our alliance. This alliance will help to synergise the strengths of the JCC and BSP, and also of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in the Bastar region and the industrial belts of Chhattisgarh due to the presence of their labour union, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
Our coalition with the BSP is not just of two parties but of the meeting of two hearts that beat as one. The biggest testimony to this fact is that my daughter-in-law, Richa, is contesting on the BSP symbol.
In your view, what are the weak areas of the 15-year-old Raman Singh government?
In a nutshell, I would say that the Government of Chhattisgarh has failed on all three sectors related to the common man " health, education and security. When I say security, it includes women's security, financial security, food security, the increasing crime rate and the Maoist problem. The underlying reason for this is incompetence and rampant corruption.
To elaborate, I would like to cite a few examples that clearly indicate the failure of the Raman Singh government in its 15-year tenure:
- Despite 30 lakh unemployed youth in Chhattisgarh, jobs are being given to outsiders.
- The government is running the business of selling liquor, but is closing schools in the name of rationalisation.
- Farmers have not been given their promised minimum support price (MSP), which is forcing them to commit suicide.
- A once power surplus state is becoming power deficit, but at the same time, the government is selling power to other states.
- Businessmen are facing a slowdown because of wrong policies, especially demonetisation and the poor implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
- Human trafficking and crimes against women are on the rise.
- A dominant bureaucracy and prevalence of rampant corruption prevails in Chhattisgarh. The chief minister himself has been asking his party workers and leaders to stop the business of commission for the past year to be able to rule for 30 years
The list is endless.
What is your main campaign plank?
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are the only states in India where there are no regional parties yet. This election will change the scenario in Chhattisgarh. Now, the people of Chhattisgarh will no longer have to depend on Delhi or Nagpur to make decisions. All their decisions will be made in Chhattisgarh.
This government will be "of the people of Chhattisgarh, by the people of Chhattisgarh and for the people of Chhattisgarh".
What will be your approach to the Maoist problem?
The Maoist problem cannot be tackled by bullets. There is a famous saying: "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." It applies in this case. The Maoist problem can be resolved through dialogue, by involving them in the political process. That is what happened in Nepal. We need socio-economic development; we need to give them education and employment and orient them to a good lifestyle.