Congress banks on minorities, reaching out to vegetable vendors for advice

Nirendra Dev 

Raipur/Bilaspur, Oct 15 (UNI) Hoping to storm back to power in Chhattisgarh riding the anti-incumbency wave against BJP, the Congress finds itself in a quandary due to entry of Ajit Jogi-led Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) in the race and also given its image that the grand old party is not a ruthless fighter. But the grand old party wants to change.

Interactions with Congress foot soldiers in Raipur, Rajnandgaon and Bilaspur regions reflect that many party workers and even supporters feel that at times the Congress leaders both in the state and in Delhi seemed to have created situations wherein the initiatives was lost to the JCC and its ally BSP of Mayawati.

“The impression that went since last year in Congress circles in the districts and block level were that had Ajit Jogi stayed back, things would have been different. Such helplessness sentiment was unnecessary,” says Vikas Sahu, a Congress worker in Takhatpur assembly segment in Bilaspur.

Several others endorse this sentiment. But the Congress leaders’ official stance is that the battle as always taken seriously. They point out that it is with this view the party has launched a unique initiative to reach out to the poor and the downtrodden seeking their ‘advice’ for manifesto and other political suggestions.

The Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly T S Singhdeo on Sunday reached out to vegetable sellers and sought their views and he specially interacted with the women vegetable vendors and pensioners and wanted to know the issues concerning them.

“I am interacting with people. They are grassroots people and common people. Whatever the issues and problems they are highlighting all will be taken into consideration. After closer scrutiny we will try to find solution to their problems and reflect them in our election manifesto,” said Mr Singhdeo.

According to Congress sources in Raipur, a right message has gone about these interactions. Mr Singhdeo also interacted with pensioners at the Shitla Talab Ram Mandir area.

Sources said Mr Singhdeo and other Congress leaders also met people in Panderi, Station Road Guriyari and Bhanpuri.

Local residents seem to endorse the new initiative by the senior Congress leaders but few admittedly the pro-Congress voters also said somehow over the last six months the Congress camp always gave an ‘impression’ that the party is awaiting the BJP or the Chief Minister Raman Singh to do mistakes and loose.

“You cannot win without having the appetite to win. Congress in Chhattisgarh did not seem to have the will power to fight both the BJP and the JCC-BSP combine,” complains Tushar Sharma in Fafadih Chowk locality in Raipur.

A few also complained that the party high command too took Chhattisgarh battle lightly. “Most of the times the focus was on Madhya Pradesh which is a bigger state with greater number of MPs and of course Rajasthan which has a trend of throwing out governments every five years,” says Anita Mahant, a Congress supporter in Rajnandgaon.

However, the party leaders also refer to the house-to-house campaign strategy called ‘Tumhar Duari – Congress Sangwari’ launched last week.

In this context, a party spokesman said all top leaders P L Puniya, state unit chief Bhupesh Baghel and T S Singhdeo have been involved in the campaign.

“Contrary to what is being made out, the JCC-BSP remains only a vote cutter party and the voters understand this. In many areas, JCC and BSP nominees will forfeit their deposits and we are going to win,” says Congress spokesman Shailesh Nitin. 

The Congress leaders say the party manifesto and other documents will expose the BJP government’s alleged corruption and gross failure in providing a responsive administration in last 15 years.

A Congress leader also alleged in Bilaspur that even as BJP has kept their hardliner Hindutva cards on hold for reasons best known to them, the minority Christians and Muslims had faced problems.

In this context, one party leader said on the condition of anonymity that the

atmosphere is often vitiated against Christians or Muslims. 

“In terms of political matrix for obvious reasons there are problems for minorities. For Christians, the anti-conversion law particularly makes things difficult,” said a Congress leader in Bilaspur and added that things would be addressed effectively.