The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Print war over ‘tribal’ Jogi

Raipur, Sept. 18: Alarmed by the Opposition’s “campaign of calumny”, Ajit Jogi has urged his political rivals to focus on issues of governance and policies instead of maligning him.

In the run-up to November’s Assembly election, court rulings have been used as a tool to malign or vindicate the Chhattisgarh chief minister over his “controversial” tribal status.

The BJP recently printed thousands of copies of Shahdol district chief magistrate .S. Dhulia’s order directing police to file an FIR against Jogi. The order to file cases under Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code resulted from the petition of Laloo Singh, the state BJP’s rural cell chief.

Singh’s petition alleges that the chief minister filed a false certificate to establish his tribal credentials in order to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the reserved seat of Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh.

Jogi, whose grandfather Dular was allegedly a Satnami Harijan and whose father Kashi Prasad converted to Christianity, has been accused of “cheating and fraud” and other offences.

Arch-rival Vidya Charan Shukla went a step further, getting the Shahdol court order printed in local daily Hari Bhoomi which used harsh terms like “chhal purvak (deceit)”, “beimani (cheating)” and “dhoka (fraud)”.

The septuagenarian Nationalist Congress Party leader also filed a petition in the Supreme Court against Jogi, but it has been rejected. Shukla is unfazed, saying: “I will take it up again as directed by the apex court.”

Jogi’s managers have responded by getting another court observation published.

They said there is nothing new in the Shahdol petition for such complaints have come up before the courts at least four times and proceeded to publish the April 2001 ruling of the Jabalpur bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court in newspapers and on posters.

The bench had not only dismissed Manohar Singh’s public interest litigation, but fined him Rs 10,000 for wasting its time, the managers said.

But the BJP and Shukla have a different story to tell.

BJP spokesperson Brij Mohan Aggarwal and the NCP leader allege the petitioner must have been set up by Jogi supporters.

“The whole thing (petition) was so ill-prepared and poorly drafted that the court threw it away without applying its mind on the merit or demerits of the issue (Jogi’s tribal status),” Aggarwal said.

The spokesperson said the chief minister was committing “contempt of court” by selectively quoting the judicial pronouncements.

Jogi says he is “pained and anguished” that “non-issues” are being given prominence. He said it was highly insensitive to rake up issues unconnected with politics like the death of his daughter a few years ago.

On Wednesday, Bilaspur High Court refused to take up a petition filed by Swami Agocharanand seeking a CBI probe into the death of Jogi’s daughter.

All eyes are now on a crucial Bilaspur High Court judgment expected next month.

The court is to announce its verdict on Jogi’s status in response to a suit filed by the chief minister seeking the quashing of a National Scheduled Caste and Tribe Commission finding that he was not a tribal.

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