Infighting and protests have broken out within the Congress in Chhattisgarh over the distribution of tickets for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
While supporters of former Union Minister, the late Vidyacharan Shukla are enraged over the denial of ticket to his daughter Pratibha Pandey, some senior leaders have parted ways with the party following the declaration of candidates.
Although nobody wants to speak about it openly, some party cadre feel that the rift within the Congress over the issue of ticket distribution may add to its woes, especially after its losses in three consecutive state Assembly elections.
Congress has declared nominees for all 11 parliamentary constituencies in the state, but speculation is now rife about a possible change of candidates for some seats.
After the deadly Jiram valley Naxal attack of May 25 last year, the party had given priority to the victims’ kin in ticket allotment for recent Assembly elections.
Given the above position, supporters of Shukla were confident that his daughter Ms. Pandey would be handed a ticket for the upcoming polls. And, their hopes rose when Deepak Karma, the son of the late Mahendra Karma, who was also slain in the attack, was declared as the candidate for the Bastar Lok Sabha seat.
All eyes were on the Mahasamund seat for Ms. Pandey as her father had represented the constituency for several years.
But the expectations faded when former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi was made the party’s nominee for the seat. Now, a section of Congress workers are opposed to his candidature. Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (CPCC) general secretary and former minister Vidhan Mishra claimed that the sacrifice made by V.C. Shukla “had gone in vain”. “The martyrdom of the victims of the Jiram valley attack was honoured by giving election tickets to their relatives, then why was Pratibhaji was ignored?” asked Mr. Mishra.
Mr. Mishra, who was a close aide of Shukla’s, had earlier written to the party high command pressing Ms. Pandey’s candidature. Kin of Shukla and former minister Amitesh Shukla, too, said that, “Pratibha should have been given the ticket.”
However, he added that, “If the party high command has decided to go with Jogi then all party workers will together fight to make him victorious.”
The state leadership, however, claims they had recommended Ms. Pandey’s name in the proposed list of candidates. The party high command had taken the final call on the choice of candidates, the state Congress leadership said.
“We had recommended Pratibha’s name... (But) the final decision in this connection was taken by the central election committee,” PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel said.
Motilal Sahu, who was injured in the Jiram valley Naxal attack, was also seeking a ticket from the Mahasamund seat.
But, after the announcement of Mr. Jogi’s candidature, he resigned from the party along with hundreds of his supporters.
Prior to that, Mr. Sahu had also staged a protest at the Congress headquarters in Raipur opposing Mr. Jogi’s selection.
In a similar move, the supporters of veteran party leader and MLA Satyanarayan Sharma ransacked the party headquarters after he was replaced as the candidate for the Raipur Lok Sabha seat.
Earlier, Chhaya Verma, who had been initially nominated as the Congress candidate for Raipur, was replaced by Mr. Sharma.
However, Ms. Verma, who belongs to the Kurmi community, was later reinstated as the nominee for the seat.
When asked to comment on the rift within the party over the list of candidates, leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, T.S. Singhdeo, said that all party workers and leaders should show unity in contesting the polls and leave behind all issues.
“It’s not possible to make all the ticket aspirants in the party happy. This is the time to show sportsman spirit and together contest the elections,” Mr. Singhdeo said.