“It’s not correct to say that the party is not well placed. We lost three Assembly elections for reasons beyond our control”

Considered the only ‘pan-Chhattisgarh’ leader, the State’s first Chief Minister, AJIT JOGI, is a controversial figure even in his own party. Following are excerpts from an interview he gave to Pavan Dahat.

The Congress in Chhattisgarh does not seem to be pulling itself together. It’s been out of power for over a decade and has lost three elections.

It’s not correct to say the party is not well placed. The only drawback is that we were not able to win elections. We lost three Assembly elections for reasons beyond our control. In the 2003 and 2008 elections, we lost mainly in Bastar. The third and recent election we lost narrowly by 0.7 per cent votes and with a difference of only four seats. It was our fault — 27 sitting MLAs lost. Had we not renominated our sitting MLAs, the scenario would have been different.

It is said there are two camps in the Chhattisgarh Congress, pro- and anti-Ajit Jogi.

That is correct, perhaps. It is but natural in a very large party. Everyone can’t be the follower of only one person. It’s impossible for a large party to have only one so-called group. But when it comes to party or contesting elections, we come together. I have been covering almost every Lok Sabha constituency and similarly other leaders are going everywhere.

Why are your own party leaders against you? They reportedly complained that you were not very active during elections.

It’s absolutely wrong to say I was not active. I covered 65-70 seats in the last Assembly election. As far as differences within the Congress, I can’t publicly comment on the issue. Ours is a family; so, whatever differences we have, we will resolve them within the party. We don’t go outside the party forum.

In the Darbha Ghati attack last year, almost half of the State Congress leadership was wiped out. There were allegations and rumours of your involvement.

There were rumours spread mainly by the BJP. Why rumours? There were open allegations; some BJP leaders spoke openly. But they stopped when I filed defamation cases against them.

But why do you think these allegations were made in the first place?

This question should be directed at the BJP. It was serving their purpose. They were defensive after the attack. They had no explanation. The CM admitted after the attack that it was a lapse on the part of the State government. So in that atmosphere, the only path open for them was to deflect attention from the issue and they thought that it was easy to blame it on me because I was one of those who escaped that attack. That place is 450 km from Raipur and I am on a wheelchair. I could not travel by road. So, I had to travel in a chopper.

What do you think of the Raman Singh government?

It’s the most corrupt and inefficient government, which has delegated everything to the bureaucracy. Nothing can be done here without giving a cut. A mineral-rich State is being looted and natural resources are being given to outsiders at throwaway prices. This government is not able to tackle the Naxal menace.

Do you see a Modi wave in this election?

I have not visited other States except Delhi. So I won’t comment on the national scenario. But in Chhattisgarh, the BJP lost wherever Narendra Modi campaigned during the Assembly elections. At least in Chhattisgarh, there is no Modi wave.