| Ajit Jogi with his wife Renu
New Delhi, Nov. 21: Renu Jogi would be Chhattisgarh’s Rabri Devi if husband Ajit Jogi — out in the cold after successive setbacks — has his way, and the voters oblige.
Jogi, a former chief minister, sees the December 4 byelection to the Kota Assembly seat, which Renu is contesting, as his “biggest hope” to return to active politics in Chhattisgarh.
Confined to a wheelchair after a road accident two and a half years ago, Jogi is now only a Lok Sabha MP and a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee. The accident and his son Amit’s arrest in a murder case had cast a cloud on the bureaucrat-turned-politician’s future.
So, Renu’s nomination is already seen as a “success” for Jogi because he fought against the state’s powerful Brahmin lobby to secure it. The Kota seat, which is in Bilaspur district, is a Congress stronghold (the party lost here just once) and the victor has always been a Brahmin.
The bypoll became necessary after sitting MLA Rajendra Prasad Shukla, a former Speaker, died.
Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, also from Chhattisgarh, reportedly rooted for Shukla’s son Sunil. “It is the party’s tradition to give a seat vacated because of a member’s death to the next of kin,” a source close to Vora said.
Vora, who is supposed to have Sonia Gandhi’s ears, had so far succeeded in marginalising Jogi in Chhattisgarh by getting his nominee, Charan Das Mahant, appointed as state Congress president.
“This time Madam’s (Sonia Gandhi) hand blessed Jogi,” said a source close to him. A more realistic report is that Jogi’s supporters “persuaded” Sunil to stay put “at home” and not venture out into the Kota “minefield”.
Sources close to Jogi as well as those in Vora’s “camp” admitted that the Congress’s strength had dwindled in Kota despite the “Brahmin factor”. In the last two Assembly elections, Shukla scraped through with a 1000-plus margin. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had established a substantial lead over the Congress in Kota.
Renu, a practising ophthalmologist until recently, had conducted several eye camps in Kota when Jogi was posted as a district collector in Bilaspur.
Jogi Dongri, the village the Jogis come from, also falls in this constituency. It was the former chief minister’s first choice for himself but Vora and others reportedly scuttled his chances of contesting from Kota, which has a tribal population of over 40 per cent.