The bypoll in Chhattisgarh’s Marwahi on Tuesday will see many firsts — the first election in the state amid the pandemic, the first since the formation of Gaurella-Pendra-Marwahi district, and the first without any member of the Jogi family, which has held the seat since 2001, being allowed to contest the “family bastion”.
The bypoll in the reserved ST constituency was necessitated after the death of former CM and Janta Congress Chhattisgarh founder Ajit Jogi. It is expected to be a close contest between the opposition BJP and ruling Congress after the nomination papers of Jogi’s son and daughter-in-law, Amit and Richa Jogi, were cancelled following revocation of their caste certificates.
However, just ahead of the bypoll, the BJP has received a shot in the arm with Amit Jogi extending his party’s support to the saffron party in a statement on October 31, increasing the supporter base of the BJP which had already been making inroads in villages on a booth level.
“The Congress chief minister and his party members have been continuously insulting my father Ajit Jogi that goes against the tradition of the country and basic morality… I appeal to the people of Marwahi to vote against the Congress and teach them a lesson,” he said.
But some in the JCC are uncomfortable with siding with the BJP. Two of the four party MLAs, Devwrat Singh and Pramod Sharma, on Sunday extended support to the Congress, calling Jogi’s decision “ridiculous”. “After the demise of (Ajit) Jogi, we don’t have any reason to be with the party where the decision of supporting the BJP was taken without any core group meetings,” the duo said in a joint statement. However, the JCC said the two were not part of the core committee.
While support from the Jogis may fetch the BJP many sympathy votes, experts believe it will be a tough contest with top leaders of the Congress throwing their weight behind the party candidate in the constituency. Nine rallies by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel underscore the amount of effort the Congress is putting in the bypolls to counter the chance of sympathy votes.
On the JCC’s decision, the Congress has been quick to call it a result of a deal with the BJP. “The BJP raised the question on Jogi’s tribal status. People have the right to know what BJP is offering in lieu of the support,” party spokesperson R P Singh said.
The BJP, on the other hand, has welcomed Jogi’s support and accused the Congress of being insensitive towards the family. “Renu Jogi (Ajit Jogi’s wife) has been hurt by these actions, and hence she is asking people to fight for her ‘aatmasamman’ (self-respect),” said former CM and BJP leader Raman Singh.
While the Congress has fielded K K Dhruw, an “outsider” who served as the medical officer in the area for many years, the BJP has nominated local tribal surgeon Gambhir Singh.
Political analysts believe that infighting in Congress over holding rallies and choice of candidate might alienate the voters, and even though BJP does not have a solid base, the support from the Jogis might mean a lot on the day of election. Whoever wins, experts believe, will not be with a huge margin.
The district will have 286 polling centers where trenches have been dug for people to dispose of their gloves after voting. “We have been preparing for nearly a month. We have had flag and foot marches across the region and despite the pandemic are expecting for a peaceful and safe election,” SP Suraj Singh Parihar said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines