The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Judeo moustache on Jogi razor’s edge
- CM challenger vows to shave off trademark handlebar if defeated in elections

Bilaspur, Nov. 29: Time was when the moustache made the man.

Well, daku movies have gone out of fashion, though there’s one daku — and what a daku he is — Veerappan, who sports a moustache that would have sent any erstwhile Chambal sardar running to the nearest barber shop to spare himself the blushes of competition.

And then there’s Dilip Singh Judeo.

Take the proud, well-groomed handlebar out of the man and you take the man out of the tribal prince. Judeo has royal lineage.

But that’s exactly what Judeo — lately infamous for having been caught on a CD allegedly accepting bribe — has staked on the polls. His manhood.

In the manner of the late Janata Party leader Raj Narain, he has linked political fate to facial hair. Judeo has vowed to take the blade to his moustache if he fails to take the BJP to victory in Chhattisgarh. There’s a difference between the two vows — of a hair’s breadth, not much.

Raj Narain had thundered that he would not shave unless he defeated Indira Gandhi in 1977. Comedian I.S. Johar — god rest his soul in peace — made a jestful counter-vow: he would not shave his armpits until he beat Raj Narain.

The Janata Party leader won, but had he lost he would still have gained — in manhood, or unchecked growth of beard. Judeo should bear that in mind because if he loses, he loses everything.

Congress chief minister Ajit Jogi reminds him of his moustache vow untiringly.

“Judeo has been going around saying he would lop off his moustache if I am not defeated,” Jogi said at Khamariah, 20 km from here.

“But he has chopped off his nose instead.”

That hurt. Thick at the peak, the nose is formidable, too.

Jogi was speaking figuratively: it was a reference to the bribery allegations that have sprouted so nettlesomely around Judeo.

The Congress is stropping its razor to have a slash at Kumar saheb’s symbol of mardangi (virility) for so-called political reasons, too.

It says the moustache is too long — it’s not, really, not by Veerappan’s standards. And too strident — surely, not as much as General Shankar Roy Chowdhury’s. Still, the Congress thinks, by some twirl of logic, that “it displays the (moustache) bearer’s overt Hindutva stand against Christian missionaries”.

The BJP leader made his name by what he calls “reconversion” of tribals from Christianity to Hinduism. Not everyone accepts tribals were ever part of Hindu society.

Judeo — who boasts being the “exorcist” that purged tribals of the “demon” of Christianity — has been quick to hit back. At an election rally in Seepath, a small dusty town 15 km off Bilaspur, he fumed: “If my moustache goes, a lot of people will have to shave their heads in shame.”

The statement made local Congress candidate Nandkumar Patel prickly. He interpreted it as “personal slander” and moved the Election Commission, alleging that Judeo was trying to divide the constituency along caste lines. Patel, from a backward caste, and his ilk sport the traditional choti (ponytail).

For the BJP, Seepath, with a large number of Dalits, is a test as, for the first time, it is trying to make inroads into the backward bastion of the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Judeo has addressed nearly 15 rallies in the region.

He is drawing people by the hordes. Even the most ignorant of villagers seem to have heard about the “ghus ghotala” (the bribery scam) and are turning up to see the “tainted” prince out of curiosity.

He plays the wronged man to the hilt. With loads of marigold wreaths round his neck and his trademark red tilak, he twirls his moustache before launching into election-speak. “I resigned on moral grounds and demanded a CBI probe to clear my name. But does it matter' The man against whom I am fighting is so corrupt, (and) grappling with a string of controversies and charges, that there is little use in adopting a moral high ground,” he tells the crowd.

“Talk of ethics does not become Ajit Jogi, whose ethnic origin is doubtful.”

Although Judeo did not mention it, being clean-shaven — which Jogi is — and being clean are not quite the same thing.

After the speech, a villager’s hand unconsciously touched the straggly growth above his upper lip.

It was not clear if he was contemplating whose would be the bigger loss: Jogi’s chief ministership or Judeo’s moustache.

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