Mr Ajit Jogi seemed to have been his own worst enemy. When awareness dawned on the Congress, especially after the exit polls, that the party was less the target of the voter’s projected lack of faith than the chief minister, it came too late to be effective. The Congress was not a patch on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the matter of campaigning in these assembly elections. The only exception was perhaps Delhi, where the BJP was comparatively low-key. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP threw everything it had into the battle of rhetoric, banners and slogans and, amazingly, Mr Jogi and his men failed to see what was coming. Their confidence made the Congress campaigning in the state somewhat lackadaisical. For a chief minister who has obviously raised the hackles of just too many people by his abrasive style, this was suicidal.
It is difficult to say, though, what could have saved the Congress. Mr Jogi had been efficient, it is true, in different ways. Early in his tenure, he had successfully split the state BJP. The party has since considered him its “wiliest” foe. But Mr Jogi has also improved roads, reduced the state’s administrative expenses, doubled seats in engineering colleges, seen to the building of three excellent hospitals — in other words, his development record for the newborn state was not bad at all. Unfortunately, this kind of multi-faceted efficiency is plagued with inbuilt problems. Now he is facing a bribery charge and has been suspended from the Congress, both consequences of his aspiration to efficiency. The leader of the tribal segment had begun to lose credibility ever since he was accused of forging his tribal identity. Tribal politicians did not even want him as leader of the opposition before his suspension. Another sin that grew on him was the promotion of his family, especially his son. The minority chief minister, tribal and Christian, managed to lose his party voters rather than gaining them. His personality cult and coterie favouritism, conducted in true feudal spirit, neutralized much that he represented and the good things he did. Add to this his party’s usual bungling, and the Congress’s fate was sealed. It even messed up the favourable fallout of Mr Dilip Singh Judeo’s exposure. The BJP not only got away with claiming that Mr Jogi had engineered a frame-up, but it also succeeded in creating a sympathy wave for the Hindutva man who specializes in fulminating against Christians. The extremist threat, especially in Bastar, fizzled out during polling day, the simmering hostility against Mr Jogi did not.