The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clash on Sonia visit-eve

Raipur, March 7: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is likely to walk into an embarrassing situation tomorrow during her day-long visit to lay the foundation stone of a new state capital, with supporters of former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla calling for a Raipur bandh in protest against a “brutal attack” on his supporters by loyalists of chief minister Ajit Jogi.

Supporters of the two leaders fought a pitched battle in Jogi’s hometown of Garola/Pandara Road, forcing Shukla’s personal attendant to open fire to save the veteran leader. The former Union minister is unhurt.

Despite conflicting versions of how the trouble began, there is general agreement that Shukla’s guard had little option but to fire in the air to disperse the mob. But the Jogi camp alleged that Shukla’s supporters started the trouble by levelling unsubstantiated charges against the chief minister, provoking “grassroots Congress workers”.

Eyewitness accounts said some of Shukla’s supporters received minor injuries while the former Union minister was taken to the circuit house.

Shukla is now likely to join the Nationalist Congress Party on March 13. He has had several rounds of talks with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and plans to field candidates in most seats in the forthcoming Assembly polls.

Shukla has been feeling sidelined since the birth of Chhattisgarh on November 1, 2002, when Jogi was given the top post. The day Chhattisgarh became an independent state, there was violence outside Shukla’s house in Raipur, resulting in injuries to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh in the presence of AICC general secretaries Prabha Rau and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Shukla has not been sitting idle since. Under the banner of Chhattisgarh Vikas Parishad, he has been touring the state asking “genuine Congress workers” to openly defy Jogi’s style of functioning.

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