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Digvijay tastes political amnesia

Bhopal/ Raipur, Oct. 3: Digvijay Singh received a few blows for Ajit Jogi three years ago trying to convince MLAs to accept him as chief minister of the newly created state of Chhattisgarh.

Yesterday, the visiting Madhya Pradesh chief minister was a loner in Chhattisgarh, devoid of friends, loyalists and well-wishers in a region that used to be his stronghold before November 1, 2000.

In undivided Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay’s main support consisted of Satyanarain Sharma, Ravindra Chaube, Ganguram Baghel and others who became ministers first in Madhya Pradesh and then in Chhattisgarh. Except Sharma, none of the ministers, MLAs or state Congress office-bearers showed up to acknowledge Digvijay who used to be their political master until three years ago.

Jogi was away from Raipur, forgetting about his guest till Digvijay gently reminded him before leaving the capital. The call, made from the Raipur collector’s cellphone, lasted a few minutes as Jogi apologised for his failure to stand a meal for Digvijay to which the Madhya Pradesh chief minister responded with “chalta hai (it is all right)”.

In any case, Digvijay was observing navratra fasts and, having turned vegetarian, could not have enjoyed Jogi’s trademark hospitality — several types of kebabs, fish and prawn preparations and biryani, with suitable liquid supplements.

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister underplayed his seclusion saying he was on his annual private visit to Ma Bamleshwari Devi in Dongergarh. But in political circles, his move to call on Jogi-baiter Shyama Charan Shukla, the elder brother of rebel leader Vidya Charan Shukla, generated much interest. It is an open secret that the octogenarian “Shyama Bhaiya” is still nursing an ambition to replace Jogi as chief minister. The senior Shukla is counting on court rulings from Digvijay’s Madhya Pradesh on Jogi’s tribal status.

The treatment meted out to Digvijay underlined the deep schism between the two Congress chief ministers of neighbouring states who were once college buddies. They fought on the hockey field at Daly College, Indore, before moving in different directions: Digvijay in politics and Jogi in the Indian Administrative Service. But the two met again when Jogi left the IAS to join Digvijay’s profession.

As Arjun Singh’s protégé, Jogi was soon at loggerheads with Digvijay. Their battle for supremacy came out in the open when Jogi was appointed AICC spokesman, a job that expected him to publicise the party’s point of view but also provided him with a platform to occasionally settle scores with Digvijay.

Destiny took another turn and Chhattisgarh was created. Sonia Gandhi vetoed contenders Shukla brothers, Motilal Vora and Arvind Netam and directed Digvijay to ensure that Jogi was appointed chief minister. Everything went smoothly till a few hours before Jogi was to take oath. Vidya Charan’s supporters lost patience and targeted their ire at Digvijay.

Within days of Chhattisgarh coming into existence, the bonhomie between Digvijay and Jogi evaporated. The two states fought over employees, power, water and aircraft, flooding central tribunals and courts with litigation.

The bad blood spread so much that Digvijay decided not to visit Chhattisgarh, a gesture reciprocated by Jogi’s decision not to tour Madhya Pradesh. Digvijay supporters said his devotion to Ma Bamleshwari Devi prompted him to visit Chhattisgarh, otherwise he would not have been “there”.

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