The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jogi plays capital card

Raipur, March 10: The BJP is busy making promises on the Ram temple and Bhojshala, Digvijay Singh is pleading for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter and Ajit Jogi is showcasing Chhattisgarh as a land of a million job opportunities.

The upcoming Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have forced key players such as Uma Bharti, Dileep Singh Judeo, Digvijay and Jogi to formulate their political strategy in accordance with the political situation in their states.

Take Jogi’s game plan. Unlike his Madhya Pradesh counterpart, he is hesitant to play the “soft Hindutva card”, preferring to focus on regionalism and casteism.

Taking a leaf from Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Jogi is busy instigating two crore Chhattisgarhis on the emotive issue of building a new capital. He is touring all over the state to propagate how Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Judeo are posing hurdles for his dream city.

Speaking in the local dialect, Jogi is projecting Vajpayee, his deputy L.K. Advani and Judeo as being opposed to Chhattisgarh’s progress. Chhattisgarhi, which was looked down upon by the “political elite” like Vidya Charan Shukla, Motilal Vora, Judeo and others, is coming in handy with Jogi being able to identify with the masses.

Jogi, who like Digvijay cannot project himself as a towering “Hindu leader” to counter the Hindutva brigade led by Bharti, is, therefore, focussing on regional sentiments. Jogi believes Judeo’s hardline against conversion and cow-slaughter and Digvijay’s bid to be one up on the Bhojshala dispute and love for cows has little or no relevance in Chhattisgarh.

The tribals and scheduled castes who constitute about 44 per cent of votes are rather unsure about the BJP’s thrust on Hindutva and cow protection. Many of these tribals and scheduled castes are beef-eaters who prefer to call themselves Gonds instead of living up to the north Indian definition of an “ideal Hindu”. Jogi’s game plan is to win over these Satnami harijans and tribals.

The second part of Jogi’s electoral strategy is to focus on other backward classes, which constitute about 40 per cent of Chhattisgarh voters.

Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Korba, Bhillai and Bilaspur have recently been witness to a number of meetings in which Kurmis, Koris and other backward classes have been emphasising on their caste strength. It is an open secret that Jogi is patron-in-chief of several such meets.

The chief minister is also more than keen to let arch-rival Shukla quit the Congress and join the Nationalist Congress Party or the BJP.

Shukla, who once held sway over the Chhattisgarh region, now has pockets of influence among Brahmins and other upper castes, most of whom have deviated towards the BJP. In this scheme of things, his exit would mean depriving the BJP — rather than the Congress — of some support base.

Jogi’s opponents like Judeo are, however, not sitting idle. Having mobilised a state-wide programme to bring tribals and Christians back to “Hinduism”, the Union minister’s prime task is now to take on Jogi on the capital issue.

He can ill afford to be seen as a villain coming in the way of turning Chhattisgarh into a land of million opportunities.

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