Senior Congress leader and the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jogi has become the latest regional satrap to raise red flag against the top leadership of the grand old party of India after announcing on Monday to float his new party outside the fold of the Congress.
While on one hand, the Congress party has been losing one state after another, it’s simultaneously facing setback from its regional satraps who are rebelling and joining opposition camps.
Prior to Jogi, it was Assam Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, who quit the party after being sidelined and joined the BJP, helping the latter to win the assembly election in the state for the first time ever.
Jogi and Biswa Sarma are not aberrations; much before them there had been several tall regional leaders in Congress, who despite having a strong allegiance to the party, left it either to form a new political outfit or join another party. The reason as alleged by them had always been "neglect, discrimination and not allowing regional leadership to grow."
"In the last 13 years, I haven’t been given any role by the party — not even at the block level — and I’ve been rendered an ordinary party worker. The party workers who are with me have not been given any responsibility, even at the booth level, so forget about a bigger role. I know it has been maneuvered by some people (read Congress leaders) in Delhi. They can’t tolerate regional satraps coming up, like it happened in the case of Mamata Banerjee, Jagan Reddy and Himanta Biswa Sarma. They want weak people and sycophants in the party," Jogi told Firstpost.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a classic example, who used to be a staunch Congress loyalist, left the party, formed her own Trinamool Congress and brought an end to 34-year Left Front rule in Bengal. By winning the West Bengal Assembly election for the second time, she has proved her ability as a strong regional leader, whom the Congress party even after joining hands with the Left couldn’t defeat.
The list of regional bigwigs parting ways with the Congress is long. In the present times, the regional Congress leaders who have revolted against the party are Vijay Bahuguna (Uttarakhand), DD Lapang (Meghalaya), Kalikho Pul (Arunachal Pradesh) and YS Jaganmohan (Jagan) Reddy (Andhra).
Even in the past, tall regional leaders with national recall like former Cabinet minister and Maharashtra CM Sharad Pawar, former Meghalaya CM and Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma and even ex-Congress president Deva Kant Barooah — chiefly remembered for his sycophancy to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, encapsulated by his proclamation in 1974 that "India is Indira; Indira is India"— too parted ways with her and joined Congress (Urs), later renamed as Indian Congress (Socialist).
The reason is common according to all of them — "Apathy of Congress top leadership at the Centre against regional satraps".
“Earlier, Congress high command despite having this attitude could carry on with the party, but now it’s not possible. It needs to change or else it’ll have to face consequences,” said senior journalist and political analyst Neerja Chowdhury.
In Chhattisgarh, Jogi is not just another rebel. After 2013, when almost the entire top Congress leadership in the state comprising Vidya Charan Shukla, Nand Kumar Patel, Mahendra Karma, etc. was wiped out in a Maoist attack at Darbha Ghati (valley) in Bastar (25 May), Jogi was the only leader with a national recall value.
According to political analysts, Jogi, the bureaucrat-turned-politician, who has a considerable hold over the backward classes (BCs) and other backward classes (OBCs), is likely to make inroads in the Congress votebank, if he contests the next Chhattisgarh Assembly election under the banner of his new party.
"Ajit Jogi’s floating a new party will positively affect the Congress votebank. It will cause damage, as Jogi has a strong arithmetical understanding of the 90 constituencies in the state and a strong hold among a large section of sub-castes and OBCs. His presence can’t be ignored in Chhattisgarh politics — whether as a winner or vote spoiler," remarked senior journalist and political analyst Anal Prakash Shukla.
Like other regional satraps in the past, who were the victims of Congress high command and proved their mettle outside the Congress party fold, Jogi's presence in Chhattisgarh can't be ignored.
In Chhattisgarh, Jogi exercises considerable influence among the sub-castes in the districts of Bilaspur, Raigarh, Jagdalpur and some parts of Raipur, which are outside the purview of the BJP. Despite the controversy of his ‘fake caste certificate’ under which Jogi declared himself as a tribal and not from OBC, he continues to be an undisputed leader. The BCs and OBCs constitute a large vote bank in the state.
Jogi on Monday has gone for a referendum among 5,000 people in his home town Marwahi to finalise the name of his new party, its symbol and flag. His party’s manifesto (Kotmi Ghoshna Patra) promises to make Chhattisgarh: ‘Free from Raman Singh regime, to get rid of the stigma that rich Chhattisgarh is inhabited by poor people and tax-free, hassle-free state for the traders and investors.’