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Jogi backers, rivals in show of firepower

Raipur, Oct. 7: The fireworks have started, but it’s not because of Diwali.

Poll-bound Chhattisgarh’s capital city appeared to be celebrating the festival of lights 18 days too soon as supporters of chief minister Ajit Jogi gave vent to their anger and his rivals revelled in his discomfort after the CBI chargesheeted him.

As the news spread, supporters of his rival Vidya Charan Shukla took to the streets, bursting crackers. Within minutes, Jogi loyalists were also on the streets burning the CBI’s effigies and raising slogans in favour of the chief minister who recently celebrated Dussehra among Bastar tribals.

Jogi’s rivals had only one regret. “If only the CBI chargesheet had come a few days or weeks before,” they rued, conceding that Sonia Gandhi had little choice but to continue with the controversial leader.

The Congress chief minister, though a little rattled, held his ground. He accused the BJP of singling him out, like Dalit leader Mayavati, as he hailed from the weaker sections. “It is part of a campaign to drive out an Adivasi chief minister,” he said, alleging that under the National Democratic Alliance regime, the CBI had been reduced to a “thana” (police station) to settle political scores.

He claimed that the CBI’s move to book him in a forgery case would arouse sympathy and polarise voters in the tribal- and backward-dominated state.

He also wondered why the CBI — which chargesheeted him for “dishonestly” or “fraudulently” using a forged document to tarnish the image of the Intelligence Bureau and the Centre — failed to get the governor’s nod before filing a case against him.

“The whole thing reeks of political vendetta,” Jogi said. “It is a cheap, pre-poll stunt.”

The chief minister said that never before had a complainant been named as an accused and pointed out that he had approached the Prime Minister, complaining against a document purportedly prepared by the Centre-run Intelligence Bureau.

“How can a complainant be chargesheeted' Is it justice'” he asked before calling up Delhi to convince Sonia and her council about his “innocence”.

The Delhi durbar is a curious mix of Jogi supporters and detractors and exponents of “probity in public life” represented by Manmohan Singh.

The Congress’ traditional approach in such matters has been to withdraw the individual till a court had cleared his or her name.

In this context, the Ayodhya controversy involving Murli Manohar Joshi’s resignation could help Jogi. The beleaguered chief minister is now, apart from flashing the tribal card, pleading for the “right to appeal”. With Assembly polls barely 55 days away, the timing seems to be favouring Jogi.

Jogi reminded everyone about Joshi, wondering how the BJP could demand his resignation on “moral grounds” when the Union minister was permitted to continue after charges were framed against him.

In private, the Shukla camp admitted that the choice before Sonia was limited. The supporters of the former Congress leader said she could either brazen out the charges and go to polls with a slight disadvantage or remove Jogi that could virtually finish the party’s prospects.

For the record, however, Shukla said Sonia should accept “her mistake” of “imposing Jogi” on Chhattisgarh and remove him or face “repercussions” outside Chhattisgarh in polls in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan.

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