| Jogi at Chhattisgarh Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
|Dilip Singh Judeo arrives at a meeting of newly-elected BJP legislators at a hotel in Raipur on Friday. (PTI)
Raipur, Dec. 7: Dilip Singh Judeo got off the Tata Sumo in front of the BJP office today to be accosted by a beggar. He whipped out a hundred-rupee note: “Hum ab bhi raja hain (I’m still the king),” he declared, handing it.
Having met with this unexpected generosity on a chilly, unkind winter morning, the beggar would have been convinced.
At the police parade ground later, when a king was being made, Judeo — the tribal prince — sat with little to do than twirl the right side of his moustache, away from the bunch of central leaders positioned close to the podium put up for the swearing-in of the new Chhattisgarh chief minister.
Dilip Singh Judeo would have been where Raman Singh now stood had it not been for the cash-on-camera scandal in which he was seen accepting money in exchange for a promise to help in a business deal.
Last night, his bitter enemy Ajit Jogi was returned the compliment by his party, the BJP, when the former chief minister was caught on audio tape trying to lure away MLAs with money. Justice has been done — Judeo would have cheered, relishing the bonus after the big prize of the Congress’ defeat in the elections.
But, while falling himself, Jogi has taken Judeo with him, making them soulmates separated only in their individual tragedies — the end being the same.
There is also the CBI probe that binds them — both are facing an inquiry. Singh ordered a probe against Jogi after taking charge.
Until last night, Jogi had lost the election, but there were still Congress supporters around him to shout slogans when reporters reached his house to hear his defence after the tape tit-for-tat — Judeo, of course, was recorded on a CD.
As night turned into morning, however, and news of the Congress high command suspending Jogi spread, party supporters began to make disquieting noises. “Jogi should face the law and come clean,” said Rajendra P. Shukla, a senior Congress leader and former Speaker.
Jogi made preparations to depart for Delhi to explain his position. After the half-an-hour swearing-in ceremony at the police parade ground, Judeo was among the first to depart. About a dozen supporters from his home turf, Jashpur, shouted “Jai Judeo”, “Jai Judeo”, taking a break from chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, “Jai Shri Ram”, in the southeast corner of the ground. Judeo couldn’t have missed the louder cries of “Raman Singh zindabad” as he left.
About a half-hour later, he was spotted at the coffee house. He washed his face and went up to the large first-floor balcony to have a cup of black coffee. “I am happy. I am happy. I am a chief minister on my home estate, Jashpur. I am happy out there and I am happy out here,” he said.
Dinesh Singh, one of his associates, said: “He has been very restless the last couple of days.”
At the Jogi home on Saturday midnight, the outgoing chief minister had lost even his hours of rest. Preparing to stage his defence before the media, Jogi heard his son, Amit, talking inside. This is the son he had reportedly allowed to run riot over the past three years and this is the son whose name was associated in his final ignominy. Allegedly, Amit had driven in a car without a number plate to hand over the money in the set-up deal with some BJP leaders.
Jogi requested reporters to wait and went in. Angry voices could be heard — “keep your mouth shut,” Jogi barked. On his way back, he was told by aides that the high command had suspended him. Sources present there said he broke down. When he returned, he looked agitated.
“Politics, as often as not, is a choice between the awful and the dreadful. Thank god, Chhattisgarh has been spared the influence of either now,” said a veteran Congress supporter.
Not everyone will be so sure.