The Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) on Wednesday expelled Marwahi MLA Amit Jogi for six years, and passed a resolution seeking similar action against his father, former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi.
The action came a week after The Indian Express report on purported audio tapes which suggest that financial inducements could have been offered to make the Congress candidate pull out of the 2014 Antagarh bypoll, ensuring a walkover for the BJP candidate.
Announcing the decision after a party meeting today, PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel said in Raipur: “In the matter of the Antagarh bypoll, the PCC has passed a notice of condemnation… (and) has sent a recommendation to the AICC, asking that he (Ajit Jogi) be expelled from the party for six years. Marwahi MLA Amit Jogi has been expelled from the PCC for a similar period of six years.”
Sources said Baghel and CLP leader T S Singhdeo, who caught an evening flight to Delhi, would approach the central disciplinary committee headed by A K Antony on Thursday. They are also expected to meet party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Speaking to The Indian Express after his arrival in the national capital, Baghel said: “We are meeting Soniaji tomorrow morning. We will submit our report about the fraud Ajit Jogi committed during Antagarh bypoll. We want Ajit Jogi’s expulsion. He has systematically damaged the Congress in Chhattisgarh. We are absolutely certain that the party will expel him.”
Party sources said action against Ajit Jogi appears certain and imminent, as the state unit is insisting on it. According to these sources, the former chief minister could be removed from the Congress Working Committee, but the state unit wants nothing less than termination of his primary membership.
“The PCC’s recommendation will go to Sonia and then the disciplinary committee, which will decide the action. However, if both the PCC president and Leader of Opposition want it, it will happen. So it’s almost certain,” said a senior CWC leader.
”There are only two options before the party. Either succumb before Jogi and hand over Chhattisgarh to him, or expel him from the party. There cannot be any other solution. We have experimented handing over the reins to Jogi, and it did not work,” said another top party leader.
Earlier in the day, Baghel said the Jogis’ action had brought the party disrepute and “was a murder of democratic process”. “Politics is perception, and among the common people, it is known that the voices (on the tapes) are indeed theirs,” he said.
As reported earlier, The Indian Express has received tapes of several phone conversations purportedly between Ajit Jogi, Amit Jogi and Raman Singh’s son-in-law Puneet Gupta; between Congress candidate Manturam Pawar (who withdrew from the bypoll) and former Jogi loyalist Firoz Siddiqui; a third between Pawar, who is now with the BJP, and Siddiqui; between Siddiqui and another Jogi loyalist Ameen Memon; and between Amit Jogi and Siddiqui.
Most of these purported conversations are in the run-up to voting day, in the last week of August 2014. The purported conversations suggest that a deal was sought to be struck to make Pawar, then a Jogi loyalist, withdraw his candidature for the Antagarh (ST-reserved) seat in Kanker district which voted on September 13, 2014. There are references to the chief minister’s house repeatedly in the purported conversations.
The Congress today dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sack Chief Minister Raman Singh. “The Congress has taken action… Now it is for ‘Mr Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dhoonga’ to act against his chief minister whose family member was involved… The chief minister is directly involved, and my charge is that (it was) at the direction of the PMO, because Modi did not want to lose that election,” said B K Hariprasad, Congress general secretary in charge of Chhattisgarh.
Meanwhile, Amit Jogi said he would appeal to the party high command against the action. “This decision is unilateral and is against the poor, backward classes and minorities… If you look at the state of Chhattisgarh, you will see that the Congress always has support among the backward and the poor because of the work we do. Yet, over the last 12 years, there has been a systematic wipeout of all such leadership in the state, and this is an example of that,” he said.
“Under our party’s constitution, there is a court of appeal, and this decision is not final. I want to tell our supporters that I intend to fight my case with the Congress high command, and this is not the first time such allegations have come up… I have faith in the Congress national leadership, in Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, that the right thing will be done,” he said.
He also claimed that “till today”, nobody has said “that the tapes are genuine”. “Did the PCC investigate and find that the audio tapes were genuine? If they did, or Bhupesh Baghel did, they should come out and say so,” he said.
Today’s decision brought out the divide within the PCC, as the Baghel camp celebrated the action, while the Jogi camp protested.