Raipur, Sept. 11: Ajit Jogi is turning out to be a major electoral issue in Chhattisgarh. The chief minister could be the Congress’ biggest asset in the newly-created state or become a liability for Sonia Gandhi.
With little time left for November’s Assembly elections, the Congress chief has little option but to continue with Jogi. Yet the chief minister rushed to 10 Janpath today to checkmate his opponents in the party who are seeking his ouster on account of his “doubtful” tribal status.
Even Jogi’s critics agree that of the three states created in 2000, Chhattisgarh has performed the best. The chief minister has managed to transform one of India’s most backward regions into a power hub, drawing foreign investment worth thousands of crores.
Politically, Jogi has been able to project himself as the “son of the soil”, playing on the theme of “Chhattisgarh pride”.
The caste arithmetic is in his favour, for the backward castes-Dalits-tribals support base that he is trying to create accounts for 80 per cent of the voters in the state. Upper castes make up the remainder.
Jogi can speak the local dialect unlike his rivals — Dileep Singh Judeo of the BJP, Vidya Charan Shukla of the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress opponents Shyama Charan Shukla and Motilal Vora.
But these advantages appear to have been negated by some needless controversies. The biggest setback has been the Shahdol district chief judicial magistrate’s order to police to file an FIR against the chief minister. The petition filed against Jogi alleges that he provided a false certificate to establish his tribal credentials in order to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the reserved seat of Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh.
The chief minister has also been accused of “cheating and fraud” and other offences.
Jogi has dismissed these allegations as “politically motivated” and aimed at ruining the Congress’ electoral chances.
But some of his own party workers have rushed to Sonia, pointing out that in the past, leaders like Arjun Singh, J.B. Patnaik, Janardhan Reddy and S. Bangarappa, among others, have stepped down, resuming office only after their names were cleared.
Jogi’s developmental achievements have been overshadowed by controversies surrounding his son Amit, who has often been dubbed by the BJP and the NCP as the “Sanjay Gandhi of Chhattisgarh”.
There have been reports that Amit has obtained the government’s clearance for various private projects in Chhattisgarh and that he allegedly obtained a false caste certificate. Supporters of the chief minister say the accusations against the man dubbed the “chhota sahib” of the state are unfair and unsubstantiated.
Corruption allegations have also been made, but remained unsubstantiated for lokayuktas have not indicted the Jogi administration.
If the chief minister’s camp is to be believed, the demand for Jogi’s head has casteist origins. They point out that Madhya Pradesh had always been a fiefdom of the Shukla brothers and other upper caste leaders. These leaders do not like backward castes and tribals occupying the centrestage in the new state of Chhattisgarh and the state party unit.