New Delhi, Oct 16: Rahul Gandhi appears to have persuaded Ajit Jogi to give up “preconditions” and work for the Congress’s success in next month’s Chhattisgarh elections, raising hopes of significantly bolstering the party’s prospects.
Sources in the party said Jogi had fallen in line and was campaigning whole-heartedly after Rahul convinced him his interests would be protected, without actually yielding to his demands.
“No conditions,” Rahul was quoted as telling Jogi while discussing election management and arguing that the perception about intentions to sideline him was erroneous.
Jogi was in a rebellious mood earlier as his detractors were being promoted and even the high command gave indications that the former chief minister didn’t figure in the party’s scheme of things. Sources said matters improved after senior leader C.P. Joshi took over as chairman of the screening committee for Chhattisgarh.
Joshi analysed the situation dispassionately and reasoned with Rahul that Jogi remained the most potent force for the party in the state. The state unit had gone to the extent of seeking disciplinary action against Jogi, claiming he was no threat and that the polls could be won without him.
B.K. Hariprasad, the general secretary in charge of the state, endorsed the assessment even as the sources said there was a distinct possibility of a split before the election.
But several meetings between Jogi, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi saved the situation, though many wonder how comfortable other senior state leaders like Charan Das Mahant, Ravindra Chaubey and Bhupesh Baghel would be working in tandem with the former chief minister.
Rahul’s ability in bringing around Jogi is being viewed as significant also because of his success in uniting warring factions in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh where elections will follow Chhattisgarh.
Rahul, who will kick off the Madhya Pradesh campaign tomorrow, took up tackling dissidence as the foremost task after becoming party vice-president.
In Madhya Pradesh, he sent out the message of leadership change by subtly projecting Jyotiraditya Scindia as chief ministerial candidate, without inviting too much rancour from other entrenched leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath.
The party sources said, however, that it was still premature to say problems in Chhattisgarh had been sorted out completely.
The leadership question is still open. There is no campaign committee chief and Jogi supporters believe a positive message must be conveyed by giving him the job. There is no clarity on whether Jogi will contest himself; if he is not made campaign chief, his supporters would like him to enter the fray and make it clear he is the race for the chief minister’s post.
“So far the central leadership has given indications that Jogi is on board. Many candidates on the first list are his supporters. He is campaigning too. But we have to see the second list, which covers constituencies where there is a greater scramble for tickets,” a senior state leader said.
There is a possibility the party will give tickets to at least two members of Jogi’s family — his wife Renu and either of the father and son. The Chhattisgarh screening committee met tonight and the party’s central election committee is expected to clear the final list on Friday.