Raipur, Sept. 1: If Ajit Jogi has his way, Chhattisgarh will have just one upper-caste Congress nominee in the November elections.
In the 90-member Assembly, 32 seats are reserved for scheduled tribes and 11 for scheduled castes. The caste-conscious chief minister has now proposed that candidates from the influential other backward classes should be fielded from as many as 46 seats.
So, if Congress chief Sonia Gandhi accepts Jogi’s formula, the party will have just one upper-caste candidate in a state where upper castes make up about 20 per cent of the voters.
In the last few days, several caste-based organisations close to the Congress have sought from Jogi party tickets commensurate with their numerical strength. The chief minister has forwarded their representations to Sonia.
Jogi, who is facing a stiff challenge from the BJP and the Vidya Charan Shukla-led Nationalist Congress Party, has reasons to push for the OBC-SC-ST formula.
He is aware of Shukla’s influence among Brahmins. His game plan is, therefore, to concentrate on the “others” who constitute 80 per cent of the state’s electorate and let the BJP and the NCP fight it out over the upper-caste votes.
Jogi’s calculations appear sound on paper. But his move has created a deep disquiet in the Congress, particularly at the 24, Akbar Road headquarters where party workers from Chhattisgarh are making a beeline, protesting to Sonia that such “blatant caste-based calculations are against the very grain of Nehruvian Congress”.
Jogi’s formula for caste-based nominations has not gone down well with a small but vocal section of leaders loyal to AICC treasurer Motilal Vora and Shyama Charan Shukla, the former chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh and elder brother of Vidya Charan Shukla.
Sources close to Vora and Shukla claim that Sonia is unlikely to accept Jogi’s formula on face value.
They say that, of late, Sonia has begun listening to their grievances and complaints against the Jogi administration which was not the case a few months ago when the Congress chief insisted on giving Jogi a free hand.
However, Jogi has an iron grip over the Chhattisgarh Congress and, according to insiders, he will be able to push through his nominations at will. Vora, Shukla and the others, they say, can only hope to get “justice” and strike a balance at the AICC level when the list of candidates goes to the party president for her final approval.