The Congress, which is striving hard to stage a comeback in Chhattisgarh since it lost power in 2003, will not project any leader as the Chief Ministerial candidate for the 90-member assembly polls next year.

“The party will not project anyone as the CM candidate for the 2018 election,” senior Congress leader PL Punia, who is the party in-charge for Chhattisgarh, told IANS.

He said the Congress would rely on “collective leadership” for the 2018 polls in the mineral-rich state and the Chief Minister would be picked up by the elected MLAs if the Congress gets a majority.

The 72-year-old Punia, who has planned to make a whirlwind trip of all 27 districts to establish direct interaction with grass-root party cadres, said: “People are fed up with the BJP government’s corruption and misgovernance. The Congress has a fair chance of returning to power in 2018.”

The Congress was voted out of power in Chhattisgarh in 2003 when Ajit Jogi headed the party government. Since then, the Congress has struggled in the state to take on the BJP regime.

The Congress received a massive setback in 2013 when its state President Nand Kumar Patel was killed along with 30 others in Bastar by Maoists.

Many in the Congress still say that after Patel’s death, no leader in the party in the state has emerged as an acceptable face to all the factions.

The Congress received another blow in 2016 when Ajit Jogi deserted it and floated his own outfit to make the 2018 polls a triangular contest. But political analysts in the state claim that Jogi’s desertion was a blessing in disguise for the Congress.