Candidates pull out all the stops to ensure victory in close election
KEY CONSTITUENCY: Bilaspur
There was nothing exciting about the Bilaspur Parliamentary constituency until the Congress named Renu Jogi as its candidate from here. This set up a high profile contest with her pitted against the flamboyant Dilip Singh Judev of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The real battle of course is between Mr. Judev and Ms. Jogi’s husband, the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi. The Jogis are members of the State Legislative Assembly, while Mr. Judev is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
The presence of Mr. Judev and Ms. Jogi has made Bilaspur a keenly watched constituency. Even Chief Minister Raman Singh has said words to this effect.
“We all know Ms. Renu Jogi is a front. This election is being fought by Mr. Jogi and hence the constituency has become high-profile,” Mr. Judev told The Hindu. The contest is so keen that both the candidates are leaving no stone unturned in wooing voters. The only difference is that while the entire party is backing Mr. Judev, institutional backing is absent in the case of all Congress candidates in the State, Ms. Jogi being no exception.
It is clear that the Congress candidates are fighting in their individual capacities.
Bilaspur was a reserved seat (Scheduled Caste) until the recent delimitation with the Congress having a good following in the region among the Satnamis when it was de-reserved. Ms. Jogi’s Kota Assembly falls in this parliamentary constituency where she won in November last year with a lead of 10,000 votes.
It has eight Assembly constituencies, of which four were won by the BJP and two by the Congress, including Kota.
“Our strength is that both Renu and I were born and brought up in Bilaspur and we have special affection for the people here. Also, I share a special rapport with the Satnamis who form a major chunk of the voters,” Mr. Jogi says, adding that his wife has the support of the entire rural vote. But he admits that Bilaspur city, which has a mixed population, is a difficult patch.
How can voters even identify themselves with someone who has come from 400 km away and does not even speak their language or share their culture, Mr. Jogi asks while referring to Mr. Judev. Particularly, he suggests, when Mr. Judev’s feudal background already creates a distance between himself and the people.
On the contrary, Mr. Judev points out if Mr. Jogi can contest from Shahdol and Raigarh or Sonia Gandhi from Bellary, there is nothing wrong in his candidature.
Sarguja is very much part of this State, he adds. “My ghar-vapsi [re-conversion] programme is aimed at eliminating the distance between the royalty and ordinary people because I wash the feet of anyone who re-adopts Hinduism,” he explains.
Mr. Judev is quick to add that he does not waste time in responding to “funny and foolish” issues raised by the opponents and instead goes to the people with the development work the BJP has done at the Centre and in the State and raises issues of prices rise, national security and the ineffective government at the Centre.