New Delhi: The Congress is a “formidable force” in Chhattisgarh and is capable of winning the assembly polls without an alliance, AICC general secretary in-charge of the state P L Punia today said, asserting that the party is on a strong footing with Ajit Jogi not in its ranks.
He said the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Gondwana Ganatantra Party wield some influence in the state, but the Congress has not started any formal dialogue or interaction with them.
“We are a formidable force and we don’t need an alliance with any party,” he told news agency PTI.
“If it (alliance) happens, well and good, otherwise we are confident that the Congress party alone would be able to form the government very very comfortably,” Mr Punia said.
Asked if lack of a mass leader from the state may hamper Congress’s chances in the assembly polls slated for this year, he said that though the party’s state leadership was wiped out in 2013 Jeeram Ghati Naxal attack, there are still important and dynamic leaders such as PCC president Bhupesh Baghel, leader of opposition in the Assembly T S Singh Deo and Charan Das Mahant.
“We have important leaders in the OBC, in general caste, in tribals, and all over. So, we don’t see any major problem that we do not have a towering personality as a leader of the party (in the state), but we have sufficient talent, sufficient expertise and sufficient leadership to take on the BJP.
“Why we lost the last election was because of the betrayal by some of the leaders from inside,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.
Asked if he was referring to former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, Punia answered in the affirmative.
He said Jogi was a very important leader in the Congress and used to “dictate” terms in the distribution of tickets.
Mr Punia alleged that Jogi also used to try and sabotage the election prospects of his perceived opponents who could be a challenge to him in terms of chief ministership.
“Now we don’t have Ajit Jogi with us, he has formed his own party, good luck to him. The Congress party is free from all those elements who used to damage the party from inside,” said Punia, who was brought in by the Congress as general secretary in-charge of the state in July 2017.
Asked if Mr Jogi, who left the Congress in 2016 and formed the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress party, could cut into its votes, Mr Punia said that when Mr Jogi was the chief minister, because of his style of functioning, his policies, there were certain sections of people who were opposed to him, such as the upper caste, the OBCs, the intellectual class, and the traders.
“Now he is not with us, they are not allergic to any face which we have in the Congress party, so automatically those votes would come to us. In a way, his going from the Congress would be beneficial to us and damage Bhartiya Janata Party,” he said.
The senior Congress leader asserted that his party was on a strong footing in the state and claimed that the general impression about the BJP and the working of the state government under Chief Minister Raman Singh was that there was “rampant corruption”.
The Congress, which has 39 seats in the 91-member Chhattisgarh Assembly, is seeking to wrest power from the BJP which has ruled the state for about 15 years.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)