Chhattisgarh: Ajit Jogi cocks a snook at Cong leadership, ready for exit

By Parivesh Mishra

Raipur: Politics in Chhattisgarh looks set to shift from the Congress-BJP binary. The irrepressible Ajit Jogi, so far in the Congress, has been raising the bar of defiance against the party every passing day and going by his moves, he could soon launch a new political outfit in the state.

Jogi has never been a welcome presence in the Congress. The reason is rather simple: he wants to be anointed number one in the party and given his track record, the party is in no mood to obliging him. Yet the latter cannot summon the courage to throw him out. The tribal leader seems to have finalized the break-up plan from his side. It reflects in his recent actions.

Sample this: the much hyped meeting of the party’s election committee in Chhattisgarh was slated for 7pm on 12 July. It was the first meeting of the senior state leaders led by a contingent from Delhi led by octogenarians Moti Lal Vora and Mohsina Kidwai. The meeting was scheduled for the selection of at least some of the candidates for the party tickets. All the leaders reached the venue in Raipur on time except Ajit Jogi. He was busy barnstorming the carefully selected constituencies of his rivals and opponents in the party in a privately hired helicopter for the last couple of days. The meeting didn’t start till Jogi arrived nearly two hours late accompanied by slogan shouting supporters. The meeting started, Jogi made his point and left without bothering to hear out others.

 Chhattisgarh: Ajit Jogi cocks a snook at Cong leadership, ready for exit

Congress leader Ajit Yogi. AFP

He started his round of public meetings with no Congress flag or poster or mention of any party leader - national or state level. In Arang—25 km from Raipur—continuing this avoidance of signs of his Congress association, he exhorted the crowd with appeal to join "Jogi Express".

The ostensible reason for Jogi’s tour these days is the chain of celebratory functions to commemorate the birth anniversary of Mini Mata, the first lady member of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh and the ‘Guru Mata’ of the Satnami community. The meetings—some have taken place and the rest are scheduled for later this week—are organised by the leading ticket seekers from his camp in constituencies identified with his leading rivals within the party. Jogi in these meetings not only addressed the generally enthusiastic and responsive crowd, but also announced the candidature of his candidates.

At a meeting held at village Baloda in the state party president Charan Das Mahant’s parliamentary constituency, he announced from the stage candidature of five of his camp followers and appealed people to vote for them - all this a day before the party meeting to decide on the party tickets could take place. The barbs in his speeches, not many wrapped in velvet, were directed more at his party leaders and colleagues in the state than the opposition BJP. To make sure his intended targets were identified he never failed to ask the audience "mera ishara to samajh rahe ho na?" (Are you getting what I am indicating at?), followed by an appeal to vote "mere ishare par" (at my signal) in the coming days.

The Congress, far from admonishing or restraining Jogi, has apparently found nothing note-worthy in his conduct. BK Hariprasad, the party general secretary in charge of the state "believes" Jogi is touring the state "to strengthen the party".

The observers in Chhattisgarh have been left bewildered. After camping for weeks in Delhi during the period his party was busy trying to make the ‘Kalash Yatras’ a success in the state, Jogi was finally granted audience by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. The news reports following these meetings suggested that he has been advised to mend ways with others.

But that was not to be. Jogi was in the news the next day with notice boards coming up in front of his house in Raipur announcing his request to his supporters not to contact him for party tickets. No opportunity was missed to demonstrate his following amongst the legislators. Tickets in the last two general elections that his party lost were distributed mainly on Jogi’s recommendations. Immediately after the return from his sojourn in Delhi, a Bhajiya party for the MLAs was organised at his residence. The gathering was touted as the headcount of his camp followers. After Bhajiya it was the turn of the Iftar and dinner politics. Attendees at his residence were compared to the poor gathering at Mahant’s residence. News was leaked around the same time of yet another round of an extended dinner meeting at his residence between his son Amit and the chief of Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch.

The Manch came up around the last general election under the leadership of a veteran BJP leader and a Member of Lok Sabha Tarachand Sahu, who was expelled from his party in 2009. Sahu died in November last year. But before his death this influential OBC leader had become the focal point for a possible third front in the state. His son Deepak now heads the Manch and occasionally shares the talked-about dinners with Amit.

As Ruchir Garg wrote in Naiduniya:

"…third front in Chhattisgarh is becoming a serious threat to the status quo of the Congress-BJP binary with every passing day". And Jogi is appearing to be bargaining for a place in the set-up. The third front in Chhattisgarh, so far, is a congeries of assorted factions and banners. For Jogi to appear to look for a place for himself, his wife and the son in the new dispensation, can simply be a part of the "pressure tactics" as a leader close to Charan Das Mahant believes. But to remain oblivious to the confusion amongst the rank and file which the leadership is causing by extending leeway to the antinomian Jogi is perplexing for the observers.

After the Maoist attack on the Congress leaders in May, the focus for the first time in the last almost ten years of BJP rule in Chhattisgarh, had shifted to issues that were uncomfortable to say the least to the ruling party. Two months later, to make the matter worse for the government, the Congress came out with CDs of the Narco test of the manager of a tainted bank that directly implicated the Chief Minister Raman Singh and four of his senior most cabinet colleagues.

Before the dust settled on these turns in public debates, Ajit Jogi has hijacked the front pages and the TV crews away from BJP.

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Updated Date: Aug 14, 2013 20:59:14 IST