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Jogi jitters assail Judeo
- Bribe-tainted former minister badmouths chief minister in public, sheds tears in private

Bilaspur, Nov. 28: Even if the Congress wins, will Jogiji be the next chief minister'

The question is asked by the man Ajit Jogi is accused of framing, Dilip Singh Judeo. The desperation shows and the question is posed publicly, at a meeting outside Bilaspur railway station. It appears both a ploy to sow doubts among loyalists of the Chhattisgarh chief minister and the hope BJP-challenger Judeo is clinging to.

The chief minister is both loved and feared. People close to him swear by his dynamism, vision and ability. His detractors speak in hushed tones about his family and cronies usurping land and property. There is talk of mysterious political murders, abduction of candidates and the growing clout of Jogi and his son.

“I have never seen an election like this — money is flowing like water,” cribs a rival campaigner. BJP leaders, including the Prime Minister, describe Jogi as atankwadi or atanki (terrorist). In three years, legends around Jogi have grown, not all of them flattering.

For Judeo, it is small consolation, though. As he poses the question and lets it hang in the air, a heckler at the back shouts: “Even if the BJP forms the government, you will not be the chief minister.” Judeo cannot hear the comment, but those who do smile broadly at the heckler. The raja of Jashpur has been pipped, and everybody except him is aware of it.

Even without being “framed” receiving wads of currency notes, Judeo has enough problems. He is fighting to clear his name in land ceiling cases and cases accusing him of stealing power.

Jogi, of course, is charged with producing fake caste certificates and will have to fight off an election petition and an order of the SC-ST commission declaring him a non-tribal.

Judeo’s troubles are more immediate. He keeps a straight face as he puts his signature on currency notes offered by clearly mischievous autograph hunters. In public meetings, he declares: “Humne rishwat nahi liya (I did not accept any bribe).” In private conversations, he is said to break down, cry and ask his confidants to name one central minister who does not collect money. His public defence is that being the son of a raja, he had no need for money. He stretches it to ludicrous lengths.

“My grandfather,” he screams, “weighed himself in gold and donated it. Have you been to Pandara Road in New Delhi to have chicken curry'” he asks and goes on to declare: “The Bikaner House there alone is valued at Rs 2,500 crore! And this man accuses me of accepting a bribe' Main to chhoroonga nahi, bhai (I have scores to settle).”

Stung by Jogi and the Congress calling the BJP the Bangaru-Judeo Party and by his own nephew joining the enemy camp, Judeo declares that he, too, has renamed Jogi — a Christian — and the Congress. While Jogi should be known as Albert Peter Joseph Jogi, he says to mild laughter from the audience, the Congress is now called the Christian Catholic Congress.

The rare occasion when the crowd roars its approval is when he refers to the mayor of Bilaspur, who got elected as a BJP candidate but has defected to the Congress. His punchline: “Shaadi karo humse aur honeymoon kisi aur se (how can you marry me and go on a honeymoon with someone else)'”

A burst of crackers and fireworks greeted Judeo when he arrived. Once he reaches the dais, he makes a grandiose but feeble attempt at plucking flowers from the garlands round his neck and throwing them back into the crowd. The people do not even move. Finding the crowd cold to the gesture, he settles down, fidgets and at one point starts combing his hair. He looks far from the raja he is fond of playing, nor a pretender chief minister.

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