Chhattisgarh’s first Chief Minister Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi speaks to JINENDRA PAREKH about the state’s political scenario, development issues and on how his new regional party Janata Congress, Chhattisgarh (J) is emerging as a third force in state politics which has so far been bipolar.

Former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s announcement to set up a new political outfit in Chhattisgarh, at a time when the assembly election of the state is scheduled in late 2018, is likely to send shivers down spine of the two major national parties. Speculations are ripe that the new party would definitely affect the state’s bipolar political system dominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress. Though it is impossible at this stage to predict the political gains Jogi’s new party would make in the forthcoming assembly elections, but his contemporaneous decision has created a buzz across Delhi and Raipur.
An ever confident Jogi claimed that the fact that he has a strong hold in the state and on its people despite being out of power since a long time has prompted the ruling BJP as well as the Congress to devise strategies to counter him. When asked about his motive behind forming the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress, he said he was compelled to establish a new outfit as the state Congress failed in the capacity of a strong opposition to deal with the Raman Singh Government. In his interview, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh state and a former IPS and IAS officer expressed his aspirations, inspirations, challenges and concerns through the newly set up Chhattisgarh Janata Congress.
Here are the excerpts:
What is the inspiration behind forming Chhattisgarh Janata Congress?
In most of the Indian states, the role of regional parties is increasing with the passage of time. This clearly indicates that the leading National parties have failed to understand local issues and their policies have turned out to be unsatisfactory in fulfilling the wishes of common man. People are inclined towards regional parties these days and hence observing the nationwide trend, we have decided to form a new party for our own people of Chhattisgarh. Both the leading National parties in Chhattisgarh are controlled and directed from New Delhi, but Chhattisgarh Janata Congress will be governed according to the aspirations of the people of the state from Chhattisgarh itself. Another reason is that both the National parties have failed to utilise the potentials of Chhattisgarh. The state is abundant in resources including diamonds, iron ore, coal, limestone, dolomite, tin ore, bauxite and gold. It is the only state in the country producing tin-ore. It produces other minerals like garnet, corundum, marble, quartz, diamonds and alexandrite also. But, unfortunately, the people of Chhattisgarh are not able to extract benefits from their own resources. Our party aims at ensuring that people of Chhattisgarh get the best possible benefit out of these resources. People of Chhattisgarh are my high-command rather than any political leader in Delhi.

We heard about the impact of Bhaira Biaga in your life. Please enlighten our readers about Bhaira Baiga and his qualities that had significance in your life?
I was born and brought up in a forest dominated area; and from the very childhood I was highly fascinated towards hunting and other forest related activities. Bhaira Baiga was a strong, courageous villager who carried a lot of scientific knowledge. He was a passionate nature and environment lover. He knew almost everything about nature and kept on enlightening me about the significance of various kinds of leaves and herbs. One of the best qualities of Baiga was that he had a scientific approach towards everything he did. He was bold and audacious; I used to go along with him fearlessly in inner circles of the forest. I have seen a lion, a tiger very closely and neatly – And Bhaira Baiga’s role has been very crucial in my life that I have also mentioned in my book “Swarna Kan Jan”.

Recently you stated that if your party comes into power, Chhattisgarh will become a tax-free state. How is it possible that Chhattisgarh can become a tax free state?
Yes, it is indeed possible to make Chhattisgarh a tax free State. As stated earlier, the land of Chhattisgarh has full of resources. If utilized in a proper diligent manner, there won’t be any need to impose taxes on common people. I feel there is no application of imposing separate taxes for water. Even for VAT I have a novel strategy. The businessmen will be paying VAT to Central Government but we will compensate it through our state taxation laws. There are five diamond mines in Chhattisgarh and a lot of revenue can be generated by proper and organised utilization of these resources. Even many taxes imposed on business can also be exempted. Tax-Free Chhattisgarh will attract big business houses and will provide certain incentives to business houses that will make Chhattisgarh one of the most preferable destinations for business in India.
“If my party comes to the power, it will exempt Rs 8,000 crore of sales tax besides it will be directed to the farmers and Rs 200 per day increment to the labourers”. If executed, people of Chhattisgarh will not have to suffer the burden of redundant gigantic taxation.

Was the decision to form a new political party a unanimous family decision? Did your son Amit Jogi have a role in it?
It was not a family decision. It was a decision taken by me. I did not consult my son or my wife or anybody else in the family. My wife (Kota MLA) Renu Jogi was upset over it. Had I consulted her and Amit before taking a decision, something else would have come out. This did not surprise Amit and he has agreed to come along with me, but my wife will always hold a grudge against me for not consulting her. I was not even sure if she would come to Kotami Programme. But I had consulted some of my close associates, supporters and my elder brother before finalising my decision.

You recently commented that foreign visits of Dr Raman Singh are anything but futile. Contradictorily, the government claims that it will boost the state’s investment and Chhattisgarh will become an investors’ hub. Your views?
I think Dr Raman Singh has toured foreign countries many a time. The government is wasting taxpayers’ hard earned money. They go for vacations and all the MOUs signed by the state government were not implemented. The investors who have promised to invest in Chhattisgarh haven’t come to Chhattisgarh. The foreign visits were completely fake and cost Rs 20-25 crore annually to the state exchequer. I challenge that none of the MOUs signed are implemented and the state has not witnessed any industrial development in the regime of Raman Singh.

The 2018 election will be Raman Singh vs Ajit Jogi. From which constituency you will contest the election?
It’s true that the 2018 election will be Raman Singh vs Ajit Jogi; but there is no question of the Congress as a key role player in 2018 elections, the state Congress has already lost its importance. The selection of my constituency solely depends on the people of Chhattisgarh and if people of Rajnandgaon want me to contest from there, I will surely contest from Rajnandgaon (the constituency of Dr Raman Singh). However, it’s yet not decided whether I will be contesting elections or not.

What will be the role of your son Amit Jogi (MLA from Marwahi) in the 2018 elections?
He will contest the election in 2018 and will definitely win the seat. Amit is capable enough to take his own decision. I have fulfilled all my family responsibilities now, my family is not people who are near or dear to me, but rather all the people of Chhattisgarh. They are my true family members and I owe a sense of duty towards them. There are sentiments associated to family members but when it comes to politics and distributing tickets to contest elections, I cannot say that Amit or Renu will even get a ticket. It depends on the survey results and election analysis whether the candidate is competent enough to win the seat or not. Every decision will be taken in a democratic manner and I, along with the core committee members, will decide our candidates unanimously.

Naxalism has been one of the biggest threats to the security of the state. What will be the strategy of your party to combat the problem?
The present policy of the state government clearly shows that the state government does not know anything about Naxalism. Naxalism cannot be mitigated only by using weapons. To combat the problem, we have to fight in three front’s i.e. social development, political intent and law and order. By paving the path of development in a naxal-affected area, a sense of confidence should be created among the people and efforts should be made to connect them through the mainstream society. Secondly, there is a dire need of political intention to fight against the naxalites. They are our own people who have deviated from the path of development, and efforts should be made to boost their trust in the democratic system. If naxalism could be solved in Nepal and Colombia; then why not in Chhattisgarh? Dr Raman Singh does not know anything as to how to tackle the naxalites. The last front is by maintaining proper law and order in the state

I have read the “Bastar Sankalp Patra” issued by your party. You mentioned that your party would not let any harm caused to Bastar because of Polavaram dam. Among others, does water crisis constitutes one of your concerns?
Our party is very much concerned about the issue of Polavaram dam. The dam is constructed to provide benefit to one state on consideration that loss will be caused to the other three states. The dark side of this dam construction is that 40 villages will be submerged under water, more than 40,000 villagers will have to migrate and the most astonishing part is that two tribes will be on the verge of sheer extinction.
I am again stating that we are not against development; we are not against construction of Polavaram dam. Our concern lies against height of the dam. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the Indian National Congress have already given their consent for the construction of the dam. Our party will take every possible step to secure the rights of Chhattisgarhiya, he added.
*Jinendra Parakh is pursuing BA. LL.B. (Hons.) from Hidayatullah
National Law University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh.