The rule of the game in Indian politics is to ask one’s opponents, and never one’s own people, to quit on “moral grounds”. There is no surprise, therefore, in the Congress’s rejection of the demand for the resignation of Mr Ajit Jogi, who has been charged with forgery by the Central Bureau of Investigation. It is obviously no time to remind the party of its demand for the resignation of the Union ministers belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party who had been chargesheeted by the CBI in the Ayodhya case. But what the Chhattisgarh chief minister said to defend himself sounded preposterous. By accusing the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance government of a conspiracy to “drive out an adivasi chief minister”, he wanted to turn the adversity of the CBI case into an advantage in caste politics. There could well be a message of a possible electoral entente in his attempt to make common cause with the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Ms Mayavati, who, according to him, is also being hounded by the CBI and the BJP because of her backward-class background.
Even if the insinuations of a caste motive seem exaggerated, the timing of the CBI action against Mr Jogi lends some credence to the Congress’s conspiracy theory. The government — and the BJP — may find it difficult to explain why the CBI filed the chargesheet against Mr Jogi just a day after the Election Commission announced the date for the assembly polls in Chhattisgarh. It was also not quite satisfactorily explained why the CBI began its inquiries against Ms Mayavati only after she had fallen foul of the BJP and eventually lost power in UP. Worse still for the BJP, its demand for Mr Jogi’s resignation carries little moral conviction after what it did to defend the human resources development minister, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, when a court had framed charges against him in the Ayodhya case. Although Mr Joshi had resigned on “moral grounds”, the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, refused to let him go. Political posturings apart, there is a cause for concern in all this. The government cannot afford to arouse suspicions that the CBI is used to settle political scores.