Ajit Jogi almost pulled it off


Raipur : He has been confined to a wheelchair since April 2004 after a near fatal road accident but still addressed 117 election meetings, the maximum by any politician in the state, and almost pulled off a stunning victory for the Congress in Chhattisgarh assembly elections this time.

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Jogi, who is labelled ‘a cunning politician’ by the Congress and the opposition parties alike, was appreciated during his stint as the first chief minister of the mineral-rich state for his control over the government and bureaucracy.

He became the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh in Nov 2000 after the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.

Born April 29, 1946, in Bilaspur district, Jogi was a meritorious student throughout his career and quit his job as a bureaucrat to join politics in 1986. He was elected twice to the Rajya Sabha and was also elected to the 12th and 14th (present) Lok Sabha.

Jogi’s former ministerial colleague in the Chhattisgarh government, Ganguram Baghel says: “He is a sharp politician but he has more critics than friends because he largely believes in use and discard tactics. His lone son dominates his daily agenda and this is his another problem.”

His political career picked up when he was appointed a Congress spokesman in 1998 and raced ahead of several top leaders, including nine-time Lok Sabha member of the party Vidya Charan Shukla, to become chief minister.

Jogi’s political career received a big jolt in the Nov 2003 polls when the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.

This was followed with further humiliation when he was suspended from the party for his role in the “cash for MLAs scam” as caretaker chief minister. He was charged with allegedly paying money to elected BJP legislators to switch side.

Later, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against Jogi under Prevention of Corruption Act.

But the wily politician made a strong comeback in the April 2004 parliamentary polls when he defeated BJP nominee and his bete noire Vidya Charan Shukla on his home turf Mahasamund. Political analysts were stunned by his victory margin of 100,000-plus votes.

Jogi would now need to keep various factions of the Congress together and seek development in the state’s massive impoverished northern region and also to handle Maoists who run a parallel government in vast mineral rich southern Bastar interiors since 1980.

People are curious to know what would be the fate of a civil militia movement Salwa Judum as Jogi had repeatedly announced in the run-up to assembly polls that he would scrap it.

Salwa Judum is a government-sponsored movement that has uprooted thousands of innocents from 700 forested villages in the name of fighting the Maoists.