Ajit Jogi is chief ministerial candidate of JCC-BSP alliance in Chhattisgarh. (File)
The alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) took shape after just a few hours of discussion, former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi said, adding that he wants it to continue till the 2019 general elections by projecting Mayawati as the prime ministerial candidate.
"Mayawatiji deserves to be the country's prime minister. She is appropriate for the post and she has the potential," Mr Jogi said.
Describing the BSP chief as a natural leader, the bureaucrat-turned-politician said, "There are various things that work in her favour. She is a woman, a Dalit and also has an experience of serving as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh four times."
Mr Jogi, 72, is the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance. He served as Chhattisgarh's first chief minister as a Congress leader between 2000 and 2003 after the tribal-dominated state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
However, the Congress could not return to power after Mr Jogi's tenure ended. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Raman Singh has been serving as the state chief minister since then. Mr Jogi left the Congress in 2016 and later became the founder of the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) party.
While Chhattisgarh has always seen a two-way fight between the arch rivals BJP and Congress, Jogi-Mayawati alliance has become a keenly-watched third force this time.
Chief Minister Singh, a BJP stalwart in the state where elections for 90 assembly seats would be held in two phases on November 12 and November 20, has acknowledged that Mr Jogi would impact the BJP as well as the Congress.
The BSP has one MLA in the outgoing assembly, while its vote share fell to 4.27 per cent in 2013. However, combining of forces between Mr Jogi and Mayawati is being seen as having a multiplier effect, especially in terms of caste equations.
Out of 90 total seats, 29 are reserved for tribals and 10 for Scheduled Castes. In the non-reserved seats, the population of SCs is more than 10 per cent in 40 assemblies. Besides, the other backward classes constitute about 48 per cent of the state's population.
While BSP is known to attract Dalit voters, Mr Jogi himself is said to have a stronghold among voters from his caste base of Mahars and Satnamis.
"The alliance between these two parties is a natural alliance and it will last beyond 2019 general elections," Mr Jogi said.
"I met Mayawatiji and we discussed for few hours and then decided to contest the election together for the state assembly and I will be the chief ministerial candidate," he added.
The former chief minister said the real contest will be between the JCC-BSP alliance and the ruling BJP, while he termed the Congress a "spent force".
The Congress has no organisation, no workers in the state and above all it is without any leader, he said.
Mr Jogi's daughter-in-law Richa Jogi is contesting on the BSP ticket from Akaltara constituency in Janjgir-Champa district.
Many poll pundits feel Mr Jogi could also play the role of a kingmaker in Chhattisgarh in case of a hung verdict, while his alignment with Mayawati could give him a noticeable say for the Lok Sabha elections next year, especially during of alignment of non-BJP forces to take on the saffron party.
Mr Jogi is known to have some influence in Madhya Pradesh as well, besides Chhattisgarh and the two states together account for 40 Lok Sabha seats, including 15 reserved for SC/ST candidates.
In UP, where Mayawati is a strong force, there are total 80 Lok Sabha seats, including 17 reserved for SC.
Mayawati's party also has some presence in several other states and union territories, including Delhi, Haryana, Telangana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Bihar, besides Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Mr Jogi's alliance with Mayawati is seen as significant as the Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh was also being wooed by the Congress and other opposition parties for a broader non-BJP alliance ahead of the 2019 general elections to give a united fight to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.