Congress: What happened to BSP’s promise of protecting Constitution?
Chhattisgarh Congress President Bhupesh Baghel told National Herald that Mayawati’s decision to ally with Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh would not affect Opposition unity at the national level
Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s announcement on September 20 of an alliance with Ajit Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress for the Chhattisgarh assembly election, is being considered a major blow to the unity of the Opposition Mahagathbandhan (grand coalition). It is being said that this move by BSP in Chhattisgarh will have an impact on Opposition unity at the national level. National Herald’s Vishwadeepak talked to Chhattisgarh Congress President Bhupesh Baghel to get his views on the development. Excerpts from the interview:
Why did Mayawati decide that BSP would tie up with Ajit Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress for the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh? From where did all this start?
This happened a little while ago. The state president of the BSP, OP Vajpayee had come to me with the proposal of alliance. He came to me at a time when the BJP was suppressing the Dalits in many ways. He said that all those parties which have faith in our Constitution and who revere the builder of the Constitution Babasaheb Ambedkar should unite and contest the election against the BJP so that the party could be defeated. He also said that the BJP does not believe in Babasaheb and wants to weaken the constitution, therefore there should be a strong front against them. In response to this I said absolutely, let’s fight together. Although at the time this doubt also struck me, that whatever steps Mayawati ji has taken till now, have only benefited the BJP. And I shared my doubts too. On this Vajpayee ji had said that this time nothing of the sort would happen because now, it’s a question of saving the Constitution and Ambedkar’s name. BSP together with the Congress would fight to defeat the BJP.
My question is what happened to the BSP’s promise of protecting the Constitution?
What happened then? Did this discussion go forward or ended there?
Yes, we continued talking. Several rounds of discussion were held. Our talks were going on even recently. We met the Chhattisgarh in-charge of BSP ML Bharti also. He even said that both the party presidents of the state, that is I from the Congress and Vajpayee from the BSP together will decide about the seat-sharing in Chhattisgarh. After our conversation with Bharti ji, we were to sit together once again and take a final decision on this issue.
But the question is, why did the talks break down before the final agreement on seats? Did you try to restore the conversation?
Three-four days after the meeting with ML Bharti ji, I again got in touch with him and came to know that former BSP MLA Kamdar Jole had made some accusations against Bharti. This news was published on the front page in some newspapers. At that time, the BSP was battling with internal conflicts. The BSP leaders told me to wait till this internal strife is sorted out in BSP and then we all can sit together and decide about the seats. I said, alright. After that, suddenly we came to know that Mayawati ji has announced alliance with Ajit Jogi. And surprisingly, this was also announced in Lucknow.
Bhupesh Baghel: “I don’t think it will affect the Opposition unity at the national level... But it is clear that Opposition unity in Chattisgarh will suffer a huge setback after the step taken by Mayawati... We will expose the BJP-benefiting Mayawati-Jogi coalition in the election”
In this whole episode, how do you see the role of former Congress leader and former CM of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jogi?
Ajit Jogi used to work for BJP while he was in Congress. During his tenure only, the Congress suffered a loss in Chhattisgarh. He tried too hard to get back in the Congress, but his attempts failed. BJP wanted to use AJit Jogi by getting him inducted into the party. This is BJP’s tried and tested formula but it didn’t work this time. Now both the parties benefitting BJP are together.
How many seats did the BSP want and how many seats was Congress ready to give?
BSP was first demanding 20 seats and then came to 12 to 13 seats. I said, please be practical. You (BSP) have one MLA and on two seats you were on number two in previous elections. You have 4% vote share. Take some more seats. In this way, we were ready to give them five to seven seats but they wanted more seats. We were discussing on these points. But the BSP wanted those seats where they had just 1 or 2% vote share. I said, if you will fight on these seats then you will lose. This will help BJP. But it seems that they didn’t want to understand all this. After this, the talks ended. There were issues from the beginning itself but before we could resolve it, Mayawati announced an alliance with Ajit Jogi
Isn’t this a setback to Opposition unity at the national level?
I don’t think it will affect the Opposition unity at the national level. This matter is related to a state. As far as opposition unity at the national level is concerned, there is still a little time for the Lok Sabha election. It is not the right time to say anything about it now. But it is clear that Opposition unity in Chattisgarh will suffer a huge setback after the step taken by Mayawati.
What issues will Congress take up in the forthcoming assembly elections?
The farmers’ crisis is a major issue. Employment of youth is an issue. Above all, corruption in the Chief Minister Raman Singh government is a major election issue. We will also give prominence to the issue of displacement of Adivasis in the election campaign. Under the UPA government, we had given land rights to Adivasi under the Forest Rights Act. The Raman Singh government did not implement it. On the contrary, lands are being forcibly taken from the Adivasis. We will implement this act under our government. We will also expose the BJP-benefiting Mayawati-Jogi coalition in the election.