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There is a very strong anti-incumbency against the BJP in this election. People want a change in the government, P.L. Punia said.
There is a very strong anti-incumbency against the BJP in this election. People want a change in the government, P.L. Punia said.

Ajit Jogi-Mayawati alliance an effort to help BJP: P.L. Punia

Congress' P.L. Punia reasons for the repeated losses and the tie-up between Ajit Jogi's Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in assembly polls

New Delhi: The Congress party is facing a tough electoral battle in Chhattisgarh, where it has been out of power for nearly 15 years. In an interview, Congress in-charge of the state, P.L. Punia, spoke on several issues such as the rebuilding of the party in Chhattisgarh after the 2013 attack, reasons for the repeated losses and the tie-up between Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Edited excerpts:

What are the key issues in this election?

The lack of governance by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state; how the benefit schemes of the United Progressive Alliance government were not adequately transferred; and unemployment. Community rights have not been given to tribals. The provisions of Forest Rights Act were made redundant by the state government and so tribals are unhappy.

How has the party regrouped itself after the top leadership was killed in the 2013 Naxal attack?

The Jeeram Ghati attack happened just before the last assembly elections. We lost by a very small margin in 2013. This was because there were some Congress leaders who were in touch with the BJP and opposed Congress candidates. Now, those people are no longer with us. Over the five years, we have been able to develop collective leadership, where there are 8-9 good, important and influential leaders, and that is our asset.

What do you think is the one big reason why the Congress has failed to return to power in the last 15 years?

Raman Singh has been the chief minister for 15 years, but he has been a liability and not an asset. There have been large number of scams and corruption charges. There is a very strong anti-incumbency against the BJP in this election. Our margin of loss has been very low in terms of vote share. There were some leaders in the Congress who used to support the BJP and used to sabotage prospects of the party in selected seats. That was the only reason.

Now that Ajit Jogi and Mayawati have joined hands, how will it impact the Congress?

We were having negotiations with the BSP and several rounds of meetings took place. In the last meeting, it was decided to meet after two days. But just on the following day, they announced the tie-up.

Do you think Ajit Jogi will be the kingmaker in this election?

There is a very strong anti-incumbency against the BJP government. People want a change. The tie-up between Jogi and Mayawati is being viewed as an effort to help the BJP. This tie-up has hence lost its credibility. It is also a fact that people want to vote for a formidable government. BSP and Jogi are nowhere.

How crucial are the five state polls ahead of the 2019 national elections?

It will be a good indicator as to what people think about the present government, especially the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Everyone has an idea on what they promised and what they delivered. It will definitely express the sentiments of the people at large and it will definitely prepare the ground for the ouster of Narendra Modi in 2019.

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