The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stick wizards in border bus brush

Raipur/Bhopal Sept. 5: Thirty-six years ago, they would combine to outwit the opposition, albeit on the hockey field.

Digvijay Singh was a centre-forward of some repute at Daly College, Indore, and Ajit Jogi a centre-half, who would pass the ball to him. The association was rather successful, resulting in many spectacular goals.

But in 2003, the camaraderie between the stick wizards, now the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, respectively, is nowhere in sight.

The former team-mates are constantly at loggerheads now and in their one-upmanship, have closed their borders to buses from each other’s states. This has caused commuters enormous inconvenience and a huge loss to state exchequers.

Commuters on National Highway 12 that links Jabalpur with Raipur have for several days had to break their journey at Chipli gorge, as if it were a border like the international one at Wagah.

Buses from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh halt at Mandla and Rajnandgaon, respectively, forcing commuters, mostly tribals, to share berths in expensive private taxis for the onward journey from Chipli.

Officials of both states accuse each other of stubbornness. Madhya Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation officials say their buses were the first to be stopped, at Mandla. They say their buses were not given permits to ply in Chhattisgarh.

But government officials “across the border” dismiss this as a “tissue of lies”. They say cash-strapped Madhya Pradesh is responsible for the “sorry state of affairs” as it had not given Chhattisgarh its due share of assets when the states were bifurcated three years ago.

Since then, Chhattisgarh has privatised its state transport corporation, handing over entire operations to private players.

Jogi and Digvijay are also at loggerheads over the assets and liabilities of the Madhya Pradesh state electricity board, transfer of employees and division of aircraft and helicopters. Several cases are pending before the central tribunal and trial courts.

The two chief ministers claim to be “good friends” even now, but avoid visiting each other’s turf. Digvijay was chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh but now claims to be “taking no interest” in Chhattisgarh politics.

He has not officially visited the region except on November 1, 2001, when he was roughed up by supporters of Vidya Charan Shukla for crowning Jogi as chief minister of the newly-carved state.

Jogi, on his part, has also turned his back on Madhya Pradesh. He had a house in Indore, where his wife, Renu, worked as a gynaecologist, but she has since moved out from there.

The two governments have few ties, having refused to maintain an air link between Bhopal and Raipur or even an information centre at the state capitals.

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