In Chhattisgarh, Congress roots for ‘parivartan’

    By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

    Raipur (Chhattisgarh) : Having spent a decade in opposition, the Congress party in Chhattisgarh is going all out with its single objective of bringing in ‘parivartan’ – or change – in the heartland state.

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    With 72 seats in the 90-member assembly going to polls Nov 19 in the second and last phase of elections, the Congress is in an upbeat form to challenge the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Chief Minister Raman Singh. Polling for 18 seats in the Naxal-affected Baster region was held Nov 11 in the first phase.

    The first phase saw over 75 percent voting, according to the latest figures from the state chief electoral officer, despite fears of violence in the area. This has left both the Congress and BJP leaders flummoxed about whether the high turnout was for change or in favour of the incumbent government. Both sides are interpreting the turnout to their own advantage.

    While seeking ‘parivartan’ from the electorate, the Congress has started by doing some from within. Unlike the 2003 and 2008 assembly elections, when senior Congress leader Ajit Jogi was projected as the chief ministerial candidate, the Congress has refrained from projecting anyone this time around.

    “The party has been able to provide a unified image by not going ahead with a chief ministerial candidate in mind,” a senior Congress leader in the state, requesting anonymity, told IANS here.

    Former chief minister Ajit Jogi, who had run-ins with party leaders here and in New Delhi earlier over the leadership issue, too seems to be contended with no one being projected for the high post this time. He is campaigning actively and not contesting the election himself.

    To curb any factionalism within the party, the Congress high command named senior leader Moti Lal Vora as the chairman of its state campaign committee with Jogi as its convenor.

    Congress leaders admit in private that a lot is at stake for the party in these elections “as we do not want to sit in opposition for another five years”.

    Also worrying for the Congress camp is that if the BJP comes back to power once again here, it will have a bearing on the Congress prospects in the general elections next year.

    Chhattisgarh state Congress president Charan Das Mahant Thursday released a booklet titled ‘Parivartan Laiye, Chhattisgarh Bachaiye’ (bring change, save Chhattisgarh).

    “The booklet exposes the false propaganda of the Raman Singh government about its performance. The BJP government claimed bagging 11 awards for governance. These have been given by some NGOs and other organisations in lieu of hefty membership,” Mahant, who is himself among the names being mentioned for Congress’ chief ministerial probable, said here.

    The Congress had managed to win on 38 seats in the 2008 assembly elections while the BJP, which came to power for a second successive time, got 50 seats. Two seats went to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) last time.

    Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party vice president Rahul Gandhi and a host other national leaders and Congress chief ministers from other states have been addressing rallies across Chhattisgarh.

    Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address three rallies in the state Saturday.

    (Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])