November 23, 2013

CLOSE ENCOUNTER IN C'GARH - PART II


CHHATTISGARH POLLS 2013: CAN THE CONGRESS STORM RAIPUR?



For the Congress which is warming the opposition benches in the Chhattisgarh legislative assembly for the last decade, the massacre of most of its top leadership in the state in the Darbha naxal attack on 25 May, 2013 was indeed a crushing blow. As a part of the Parivartan rally launched by the party to fight the Raman Singh government, about 200 Congressmen were on their way to Keshloor after addressing a rally in Sukhma. En route, their cavalcade was fired upon by hundreds of armed Maoists who had set up a trap for them. Nand Kumar Patel, the state party President and his son Dinesh were taken alive and later killed. Senior leader Vidya Charan Shukla who served as a cabinet minister on several occasions also died after being hit multiple times. However, the target for the armed Communists was Mahendra Karma, a former MLA and the founder of the controversial Salva Jadum - an organization of tribals formed to fight the Maoist which was disbanded later by an order of the Supreme Court. Other leaders who died in this unfortunate encounter include Uday Mudaliyar and Gopal Madhavan.

Though the incident was a big blow for the Congress, this has not stopped the party from drawing political mileage out of the situation. In a bid to gain sympathy votes, tickets have been allocated to the kin of many of the slain men. Devati Karma - the wife of Mahendra Karma, popularly known as the 'Tiger of Dantewada' has been given a party ticket from Dantewada seat. Similarly, Umesh Patel, the younger son of Nand Kumar Patel will be contesting from Kharasia. It should not be surprising if the Congress wins these two seats with a heavy margin. A master stroke of sorts from the Opposition camp is the nomination of Alka Mudliyar - the wife of Uday Mudliyar from Rajnandgaon against the incumbent CM Raman Singh. While the BJP is confident that their leader will win an easy victory from this constituency owing to the work he has done in the state in the last decade, the sympathy votes can swing the balance in the favor of the Congress. The rebellion by Vajpayee's niece Karuna Shukla has made the matters worse for the saffron outfit. The fact that the constituency has never re-elected its sitting MLA should be a reason enough for the BJP to take Alka seriously.

While it was expected that Patel would lead the INC's charge in the state, the incident has brought Ajit Jogi - the first CM of the Chhattisgarh, back into prominence. It seems that life has come a full circle for this Scheduled Caste leader. After the Congress lost power to the BJP in 2003, his name figured in a controversy which saw him being suspended from the party. It was alleged that he used Sonia Gandhi's name to break the BJP legislature in the state. However, following a deadly car incident which has left him wheel chair ridden for life, he was brought back into the party and given a ticket from Mahasamund which he won. He represented the Marwahi seat in the last assembly polls. In fact, Jogi was supposed to travel with other party leaders on that fateful day in May when the Darbha attack took place. Luckily for him, he took the chopper and was saved. With the death of most of his prominent peers, Ajit Jogi has become the face of the Congress campaign in Chhattisgarh.

The elevation of Jogi has to some extent divided the INC camp. On one hand, Jogi has the backing of the Scheduled Caste, especially the Satnamis. With the reservations for Scheduled Castes reduced from 16 to 12 percent, they are angry with the incumbent government and the Congress is trying to cash in on it. Also since he is a practicing Christian, he is expected to get the support of Church in areas where it has considerable influence. However, naming him for the top post has its share of cons too. On various occasions, his name has figured in several scandals, the most famous being the allegation that he had procured a fake caste certificate in his early days. In fact, there is a certain section of the party that feels that he has a hand to play in the Naxal attack. They say that he may have given details of the movement of the Congress entourage to the Maoists. Nonetheless, he has managed to get over 40 seats for his followers all across the state. In about 15 constituencies where his suggestions were ignored, he is said to have fielded independents to assert his influence here. Meanwhile, his wife Renu Jogi has filed her papers from Kota whereas his son Amit Jogi will contest from Marwahi on a Congress ticket.


For more on Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections 2013, click here (Link)