Raipur: The rivalry within the Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress has escalated after it suffered a crushing defeat in an Assembly bypoll where senior party leader Ajit Jogi pulled out from the poll campaign due to an alleged rift with the party organisation.
The Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in the Sanjari Balod assembly constituency in Durg district by over 9,500 votes. The Other Backward Class (OBC)-dominated seat went to polls on February 14 and the results were announced on February 17.
The bypoll was necessitated after the state`s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Madanlal Sahu died in August last year following cardiac arrest. His widow Kumari Bai Sahu won the bypoll for the BJP defeating Congress` Mohan Patel.
The Congress, which is divided into various factions and sub-factions in the state ever since it lost power to BJP in the November 2003 Assembly Elections, fought the Sanjari Balod bypoll with full force. But its campaign was marred as party stalwart in the state and former chief minister Ajit Jogi kept out of the electioneering, saying he was not invited by state president Dhanendra Sahu.
But Sahu has rejected Jogi`s claim and said, "He was invited to campaign but the former CM (chief minister) preferred to remain out of the entire campaigning".
According to sources, Jogi had maintained that Sahu had sent him an invitation for campaigning but the invitation was `too late`, and he could not attend the campaigning because his brother-in-law and a former minister in Madhya Pradesh, Ratnesh Soloman, had died.
But a Congress source said: "Sahu had deliberately delayed invitation to Jogi as he believed that Congress could win the by-poll minus Jogi, especially in Durg, since it is the home district of Congress national treasurer Motilal Vora."
"Jogi too wanted to prove that Congress could not win the election without his support even on Vora`s home turf, so he opted out," he added.
A Congress legislator, who is Jogi`s ardent supporter, said: "Jogi proved in this by-election that Congress still has no future in the state without him. Several Congress leaders in the state were of the view that Jogi was already past his best, but the result shows that Jogi is still the Congress face in the mineral-rich state."
But different anti-Jogi camps in the party are compiling newspaper clippings and will soon present them to the central leadership in their bid to prove how "Jogi spoiled Congress chances through his trusted aide and former minister Manoj Mandavi who took a sizeable tribal vote bank in Sanjari Balod away from the party and in favour of a candidate backed by a tribal outfit".