The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shukla poll alert for Cong, BJP

Raipur, April 16: Former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla’s bid to float a third front in poll-bound Chhattisgarh is likely to have a crucial bearing on both the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP.

Shukla, or Vidya Bhaiya as he is popularly known, is looking to present the front as a rallying point for anti-Ajit Jogi sentiments and turn the November contest into a Jogi-versus-Shukla fight.

At 75, Shukla’s biggest asset is his administrative acumen. Moreover, being a familiar name in the state can even put him ahead of some BJP chief ministerial aspirants like Dileep Singh Judeo, Ramesh Bais and Raman Singh. The BJP’s inability to project a leader against Jogi and rumblings within the Congress can provide a platform that Shukla has been looking for.

Shukla, who quit the Congress to join Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, is keen to take a shot at realising his dream of becoming chief minister, relying on Pawar’s resources.

The rebel leader is realistic enough not to claim outright victory in the elections, but is reasonably confident that in the event of a hung House, his group can tilt scales in the 90-member Assembly. A state still in its infancy, Chhattisgarh is yet to give its first decisive verdict.

A section of the state Congress is known to be dissatisfied with Jogi’s brazen style of functioning and his inability to carry everyone along. The response that Shukla is getting in Raipur has been encouraging. The way the chief minister has been trying every trick in the trade to keep his flock together has further fuelled Shukla’s hopes.

Jogi’s biggest problem is that he lacks the organisational skills of his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Digvijay Singh.

Allegations of corruption and reports of his son Amit and wife Renu’s involvement in the administration and the party have made the chief minister’s task more difficult.

The BJP camp does not present a picture any different. The top leadership is yet to decide on the party’s chief ministerial candidate. Union minister of state for environment and forest Judeo is a frontrunner, but is facing competition from Bais and Raman Singh. A section of the BJP has also been complaining about Judeo’s “lack of interest” in state politics, saying he is more occupied with other issues like the re-conversion of tribals.

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