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Jogi runs into tribal tirade

Raipur, Dec. 5: After being humbled at the hustings, outgoing Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi has now run into trouble with his own MLAs.

In the run-up to the elections, the BJP had questioned Jogi’s tribal credentials and it was a section of tribal leaders led by Bastar’s Mahendra Karma which made the going tough for him today.

The outgoing chief minister is eyeing the leader of the Opposition’s post in the new Assembly, but Karma joined the chorus demanding that Jogi step aside. “It is time we project a new leader as Opposition leader,” Karma, a former MP and MLA from Dantewara, said at the Congress legislature party meeting.

The meeting, held at the Gandhi Bhavan here, had to be cancelled midway when some central leaders raised technical objections.

Karma said the Congress’ campaign machinery had failed to deliver during elections and everything was done at Jogi’s bidding. He added that tribal leaders should consider if Jogi could adequately represent them.

Having accepted moral responsibility for the defeat, Jogi today handed in his resignation as chief minister to the governor. He said he would serve as a responsible Opposition leader.

“Let us admit that we lost because we failed to get the support of the tribal voters in our traditional bastions in Surguja and Bastar,” Jogi said. He added that he would make an indepth analysis of where the campaign had gone wrong.

Karma and other leaders welcomed Jogi’s admission that mistakes had been made, but were upset at Jogi’s eyeing the leader of Opposition’s post. The MLA and others could split the Congress legislature party and place Jogi under further pressure.

Congress MLAs feel voters threw out Jogi because of his image. “There appears to be a polarisation of votes on the ground that Jogi is a Christian and also a dubious tribal,” a senior party MP said.

This polarisation led to a near rout for the Congress in tribal-dominated Bastar and Surguja. The BJP had not been able to make a dent in Surguja until now but won six seats, including Ambikapur, this time around. Just two Congress candidates won in Bastar.

In Raipur, the scions of many important leaders lost. Amitesh, son of Shyama Charan Shukla, Arun, son of Motilal Vora, and Pratima, daughter of Basudev Chandrakar, came a cropper in this region.

The only place the Congress did relatively well was Bilaspur, where Amar Agarwal, Rajendra Shukla and Bodhiram Kanwar won. But this has been attributed to their personal image.

Looking for a scapegoat, the Jogi camp alleged central security forces deployed in Bastar to combat the Naxalite menace had prevented tribals from reaching the booths and even “cast proxy votes on their behalf”.

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