Ajit Jogi wants Cong to project PM candidate ahead of LS polls



New Delhi: Congress should give up the "general practice" of not projecting a leader ahead of the assembly elections, a senior leader said on Sunday striking a different note in the run-up to a series of electoral battles.

Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi insists that the Congress should realise that a national party has to cater to both national and regional aspirations.

"As a national party in each state, we will not succeed unless we strike a balance," he contends in an interview to PTI. He wants Congress also to project a prime ministerial candidate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls which are 15 months away.

Asked whether Congress should project a leader before the Assembly polls, he said, "It is my personal opinion that a decision should be taken statewise and not a general rule be followed.

"Depending upon circumstances in each state, we should project a leader or not project a leader. We projected a leader in Himachal Pradesh and that yielded results, whereas in the past we have not projected, but there also we have got results," he says.

The general practice in the party is not to project a leader. It is only after elected MLAs views are taken, observers are sent and the Congress president decides, the 67- year-old leader says.

This is perhaps for the first time in recent years that any Congress leader has spoken out on the issue. Jogi was the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh after it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh over a decade back. Chhattisgarh is going to polls by the end of this year along with Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi where Congress and BJP are principal opponents.

Jogi replied in the affirmative when asked whether Congress should project a prime ministerial candidate. "We should say that the next leader of the country will be from Nehru-Gandhi family. This is my personal feeling.

"Overwhelming majority of Congressmen feel that time has come when they should lead the country and everything will depend upon choice of the family. If they want, people will lap it up. If they do not want, you cannot help it", he says. An early decision on Telangana issue is "very important", says Jogi underlining that Andhra Pradesh has been a key state in the Congress scheme of things.

Jogi, who had been the national spokesman of the party when it was in Opposition, however, steers clear of questions on future allies and whether the Congress leadership should give a call for all former partymen to return to the fold.

His stock reply is that party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has formed a Committee headed by senior leader AK Antony which is going into this matter and decide both pre-poll and post-poll allies and submit it to the Congress Vice-President and President for final approval.

The talk in the party is that there will be pre-poll alliances only in a handful of states including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Jharkhand.

Jogi feels that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi posed no threat to Congress even if he is made the prime ministerial candidate.

"Modi, in my opinion, is not a national leader and has no pan-Indian acceptance whereas our leadership, in truth, is all India leader, whether Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, they are leaders of the nation, not any state or region.

Modi is seen as a leader of Gujarat and he is yet to go to other states and has to be accepted by them... 2002 riots will never allow him to be accepted by the nation...," he says.

He also feels that an advantage for Congress in the next Lok Sabha elections is that the BJP, is in "disarray".

"They have not been able to decide on their leader and policies and is witnessing an open revolt and it has lost state after state, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and they are about to lose Karnataka, where they are in a very bad shape... I sincerely feel we do not have a competitor," he says.

PTI