Bhopal: Aiming to gain power after a gap of almost one-and-a-half decade, the Congress in Madhya Pradesh has started preparations for the year-end Assembly polls and indicated it was open to joining hands with “like- minded” parties to oust the ruling BJP.
To begin with, the party is focusing on identifying possible candidates on “difficult” seats by March-end, but remained non-committal on projecting a chief ministerial candidate ahead of the crucial polls likely by December.
“(Generally) decision on seats is taken at the last moment. I will discuss the matter with senior leaders of the state.
“However, I am thinking of identifying candidates on difficult seats – the seats the party has not won for the last three-four elections.
“I will indicate such persons in advance – my aim is by March-end – so that they get sufficient time to prepare for the polls,” said Deepak Babaria, Congress general secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh .
He was asked about the party, in the past, waiting almost till the last day of filing nominations to finalise candidates on various seats.
The Congress is out of power in Madhya Pradesh, which has a 230-member Assembly, since 2003.
Asked about projecting a chief ministerial face in Madhya Pradesh as happened in Punjab, where the move paid rich dividends to the party, Babaria said, “Whatever is needed we will do. But we will not open our cards outside.
“If we decide on any face we will definitely let people know about it. What we are thinking or not thinking (on the issue) we will not let anyone know.”
A section in the party has been demanding projection of a chief ministerial nominee in the state, where the BJP has won the last three Assembly elections.
Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha and senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia has openly demanded that the party project a face for the top post.
Babaria said there was no confusion in the party over the issue of chief ministerial candidate and claimed the BJP was trying to mislead people over the matter.
“It is a conspiracy of the BJP…they are trying to spread confusion on the issue. A senior state minister called our former MLA after a meeting to know what all had happened in the meet addressed by me. Why are they more interested in knowing affairs of the other party”
“In Gujarat also they tried to confuse people on the issue but after former Union minister Shankarsinh Vaghela’s exit from the Congress, things improved there,” he said.
“They also got news reports published on the issue in two Delhi newspapers. It is their conspiracy and we are not confused. We will not reveal the party’s strategy,” he added.
Asked about the party’s success the recently held local body elections, he credited it to the hard work put in by Congress workers. The Congress leader also said the BJP is losing ground in the state.
“The BJP is losing ground in the state and that was clearly visible when Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had to campaign for these polls.
“It (the local body poll result) has reflected the people’s mood for the year-end elections,” Babaria said.
Asked if like Gujarat, community leaders such as Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani would be roped in for campaigning in Madhya Pradesh, Babaria said they are popular leaders and command influence in their respective communities.
“Wherever needed, we will take their and also other like-minded people’s help in elections.”
“The party will consider having a truck with like-minded parties,” Babaria said.
He was asked whether the Congress will tie-up for the polls with outfits like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) which have influence in certain areas bordering Uttar Pradesh.
“I will not take anybody’s name. But we have an open mind (on alliance). We will take help of like-minded people. So far, no discussion has taken place with the party high command on the matter,” Babaria said.