Infighting and protests have broken out within the opposition Congress in Chhattisgarh over the distribution of tickets for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
While supporters of former Union Minister, the late Vidyacharan Shukla are enraged over the denial of ticket to his daughter Pratibha Pandey, some senior leaders have parted ways with the party following the declaration of candidates.
Although nobody wants to speak about it openly, some partymen feel that the rift within Congress over the issue of ticket distribution may add to its woes, especially after its losses in three consecutive state Assembly elections.
Congress has declared nominees for all 11 parliamentary constituencies in the state, but speculation is now rife about a possible change of candidates for some of the seats.
After the deadly Jiram valley Naxal attack of May 25 last year, the party had given priority to the kin of the victims in the allotment of tickets for the recent Assembly elections.
Given the above position, the supporters of Shukla were confident that his daughter Pratibha would be handed a ticket for the upcoming polls. And, their hopes rose when Deepak Karma, the son of the late Mahendra Karma, who was also slain in the Naxal attack, was declared as the candidate for the Bastar Lok Sabha seat.
All eyes were on the Mahasamund seat for Pratibha as her father had represented the constituency for several years.
But the expectations faded when former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi was made the party’s nominee for the seat. Now, a section of Congress workers are opposed to his candidature.
Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (CPCC) general secretary and former minister Vidhan Mishra claimed that the sacrifice made by VC Shukla “had gone in vain”.
“The martyrdom of the victims of the Jiram valley attack was honoured by giving election tickets to their relatives, then why was Pratibhaji was ignored?” said Mishra.
Mishra, who was a close aide of Shukla’s, had earlier written to the party high command pressing Pratibha’s candidature. Kin of Shukla and former minister Amitesh Shukla, too, said that, “Pratibha should have been given the ticket”.
However, he added that, “If the party high command has decided to go with Jogi then all party workers will together fight to make him victorious.”
The state leadership, however, claims they had recommended Pratibha’s name in the proposed list of candidates. The party high command had taken the final call on the choice of candidates, the state Congress leadership said.
“We had recommended Pratibha’s name… (But) the final decision in this connection was taken by the central election committee,” PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel said.
Motilal Sahu, who was injured in the Jiram valley Naxal attack, was also seeking a ticket from the Mahasamund seat.
But, after the announcement of Jogi’s candidature, he resigned from the party along with hundreds of his supporters.
Prior to that, Sahu had also staged a protest at the Congress headquarters here opposing Jogi’s selection.
In a similar move, the supporters of veteran party leader and MLA Satyanarayan Sharma ransacked the party headquarters after he was replaced as the candidate for the Raipur Lok Sabha seat.
Before that Chhaya Verma, who had been initially nominated as the Congress candidate for Raipur, was replaced by Sharma.
However, Verma, who belongs to the Kurmi community, was later reinstated as the nominee for the seat.
When asked to comment on the rift within the party over the list of candidates, leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, TS Singhdeo, said that all party workers and leaders should show unitedly contest the polls and leave behind all issues.
“It’s not possible to make all the ticket aspirants in the party happy. This is the time to show sportsman spirit and together contest the elections,” Singhdeo said.