The first chief minister of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jogi says it was “foolish” of the grand old party to promise the scrapping of sedition law and amendment of Afspa in its Lok Sabha poll manifesto. A political heavyweight, Jogi severed his 30-year long association with the Congress to floated his own party, the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC), which emerged as the third force in his state in the Assembly polls last year.
In an interview to Prakash Kumar of Deccan Herald, he said the Congress has an edge over the BJP in the state as of now but it will suffer “huge losses” in the Lok Sabha polls for including the issue of sedition law and AFSPA in its manifesto.
You wanted to contest Lok Sabha polls and field your party candidates too. Why did you withdraw from joining the fray all of a sudden?
Of course, I wanted to contest Lok Sabha polls till the last moment. I believe I would have easily won had I contested. But when we discussed it at the meeting of our party’s parliamentary board and core committee, all the members were unanimous in their view that we should not join the fray keeping in mind the limited resources we have. We are not a party with unlimited resources like others. Contesting elections has become a very expensive affair these days.
We cannot contest all the elections from local body to Lok Sabha with the limited resources we have. I felt their wishes were positive and far stronger than those of mine. If my party reaches Parliament winning one or two seats, it won’t make much difference. Hence we decided that we will not waste our energy and resources on contesting Lok Sabha polls.
Since we are a regional party, we will focus on upcoming regional elections in the State. For the Lok Sabha polls, we decided to support the BSP. We are giving complete support to BSP in Chhattisgarh. I wish BSP-SP alliance wins large number seats in Uttar Pradesh. This will enhance our importance in national politics.
What is the national scenario and possible outcome of this Lok Sabha polls?
It’s a clear contest between two different ideologies. While (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and BJP is trying to set the agenda of nationalism, Hinduism, surgical strike, air strike and rest of that for this election, Congress and other regional parties are talking about Nyay to render justice to those battling poverty, farm loan waiver, fair price for the farmers produce, jobs for those unemployed and many other issues which are closer to ground realities.
Now, people have to make up their mind as to whether the agenda of this election should be that which Modi is talking about or what others are saying. I think, people are listening but have not yet made up their mind. Things will be clearer in the next few days when the poll agenda is set.
In my view, communal forces, led by Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, should not get another chance. It will be very dangerous for this country if they come back to power. The country is today witnessing a discord in social and communal harmony. It has to be stopped and bring back to normal. Social and communal harmony is most important for the progress of our country and people.
Congress manifesto has also promised to scrap sedition law and amend AFSPA. What is your view?
It was foolish for the Congress to include such things in their manifesto. There is a separate chapter on Kashmir in the manifesto. There was no need to mention all these things in their poll manifesto. For this, Congress will surely have to suffer a huge setback in the elections.
Without these promises, the Congress manifesto was fine. The Supreme Court has in the past said that section 124 A should be amended because the Britishers brought this to crack down on the freedom fighters during imperial rule.
The court has held that mere raising of anti-India slogans by one or two persons does not constitute sedition unless there is some overt act that leads to violence. I think, Congress also meant the same thing but could not place it in proper context and promised for scrapping of the sedition law in its manifesto, either by mistake or out of sheer foolishness.
What are the poll prospects for the Congress in Chhattisgarh?
At present, the Congress definitely has an edge over its rivals here because it’s been only a few months since the party came to power in the state with a huge mandate, winning 68 out of 90 seats in the Assembly poll. As of now, the Congress is ahead of the BJP. But, Modi’s poll campaigns and that of the BJP are gradually taking this advantageous position away from the Congress. Amid this situation, how things unfold for the Congress as it gets closer to the elections is something that remains to be seen.
Denying tickets to all its 11 sitting MPs in Chhattisgarh, the BJP has fielded new faces. What is the poll prospect of the saffron party?
The BJP did an experiment in Delhi during last municipal corporation elections as the party’s sitting members had become unpopular. It fielded a large number of new candidates across all three municipal corporations and won the elections. Keeping the success of its Delhi experiment in mind, I think, the party has fielded new candidates for all 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state, since the party suffered a massive drubbing here in the recent assembly polls. It’s a gamble. BJP has taken a risk. Results of this decision of the party will come in May when poll results are announced.
BJP has dropped party stalwarts LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and others from the fray. Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan also had to announce that she would not contest. What will be its impact on the BJP’s poll prospects?
With dropping of these leaders from the fray by the BJP leadership, a large section of people has been hurt across the country. They are very senior leaders of the party and influential too, even today. Nobody would appreciate the sidelining of such leaders in the manner it was done. It’s very bad.