'A Raman-free Chhattisgarh' is the top priority of former Congress leader Ajit Jogi, who has hinted at being part of a 'Third Front' including Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar if it is forged ahead of the next general elections.
Often branded as 'Team B' of the BJP-ruled state's Chief Minister Raman Singh by his opponents, Jogi said he would name his new political outfit by this month-end and start working towards winning the Assembly polls which is over two years away.
"Like Mahabharat's Arjun, I am also seeing my target as Raman-free Chhattisgarh. My single-point agenda is to oust the BJP-led corrupt government from the state which is allowing the private sector and select businessmen to loot state's precious minerals," he told PTI in an interview.
Jogi, the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, said the outfit he has proposed to launch will form the next government in the state.
"I belong to this state. We will form the new government after winning the next Assembly elections," said the tribal leader.
Replying to a question on whether he would join a third front if it emerged at the Centre, he said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee were his "old friends" and such a call will be taken at the right time.
"Whenever Lok Sabha elections happen, we will take a call then," Jogi said, adding that Nitish and Mamata had called to congratulate him on his decision to leave the Congress and form a new party.
RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and YSR Congress party head Jagan Reddy too called and congratulated him, Jogi said, calling them his "old friends".
When asked about his alleged close links with Raman Singh, he shot back, asking "Agar dost hote to mere bete ko jail me dalwate kya? (had we been friends, would he send my son to jail?)".
Jogi's son Amit, a legislator from Marwahi constituency, was sent to jail in a murder case.
"He (Raman Singh) also kept alive the issue related to my caste. No friend would do it to another," he said, rejecting claims of his detractors about a "covert" friendship between the two.
Amit was expelled by the state Congress for six years after some audio tapes purportedly claimed he had a role in "fixing" the bypoll for Antagarh Assembly seat in 2014 in favour of the BJP candidate. The state unit of Congress had also recommended Ajit Jogi's expulsion.
Ajit Jogi said there was no chance of his going back to Congress.
"It is impossible. I will never go back to Congress," he said. Jogi declined to comment on the functioning of Congress' central leadership.
While political analysts see in Jogi's exit from Congress the possibility of the rise of a new satrap, state party chief Bhupesh Baghel considers it as a good omen, which will help it regain its moorings.
"There will be no loss to Congress due to Jogi's exit. In fact it will benefit the party and we will win the next elections," Baghel told