Indiacating that former chief minister Ajit Jogi would be a major challenge to the Chhattisgarh Congress than the BJP in the coming assembly polls,a rebel candidate of his camp won the nagar panchayat election in Keshkal area of Kondagaon district in Bastar division.
Shahima Memon got 2,931 votes and convincingly defeated the BJP candidate by nearly 1,800 votes. Congress candidate Mamta Chandrakar lost her security deposit.
The election had gained significance as Memon,a member of the Jogi camp,was first supposed to be the Congress candidate but the party at the last minute opted for Chandrakar. Subsequently,she decided to contest as an independent and several Congressmen campaigned for her.
Last week,the party suspended four such members for anti-party activities for six years and hours later,in retaliation,Jogi shot off a letter to acting PCC chief Charan Das Mahant,asking him to devote at least two days for campaigning in Keshkal and ensure Congress victory.
The election was also the first fight for ballot in the state after the Congress convoy attacked in Darbha in Bastar district. Incidentally,Keshkal is on the same highway that southwards goes to Darbha.
That the Congress failed to put up a united front even in the hour of emotional and electoral crisis again confirmed the state the party is in Chhattisgarh.
While anti-Jogi leaders tried to maintain a calm posture saying Memons victory was certain as Keshkal panchayat seat was a minority-dominated seat and Jogis attempt to weaken Congress would not affect the partys poll prospects,the fact remains that in an assembly of 90 seats even a minor upset by the Jogi camp would ensure the third consecutive defeat for the party.