The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Copter craze on prestige turf

Bagicha (Chhattisgarh), Nov. 29: They came down from the sky in a swirl of dust. The two “star campaigners” landed 40 km apart, but both got what they wanted — awe-struck crowds.

Helicopters are a big draw for the villagers and the number of people gathered around the flying machines easily exceeded those who had come to listen..

“I have driven your car for three years at a speed of 200 km per hour. I promise to drive it well for the next five as well. You have already lived your life in poverty, but please, for the sake of the next generation, support Anand Kujur, our candidate,” Ajit Jogi told the crowd at Mahadeo Dand. But people around the chopper were unmoved.

“I am a jogi. A jogi is one who comes to every house, asking for a handful of rice. Please give me that much. Do not be carried away by the Bharatiya Jhooth Party or the Bharatiya Danga Party,” the Congress chief minister pleaded. This time the crowd burst into laughter.

A little distance away in Ranpur, Dilip Singh Judeo got sentimental. “My ancestors have lived with you, cared for you. Then a person called Jogi came. He broke my house, he broke my family. He took away our MLAs. He is after my life. I will not give up whatever the consequences. You can give it back to him by voting for the BJP candidate,” he told the gathering. The human circle around the helicopter broke into shouts of “Jai Judeo”.

He then changed tack. “I do see some Christian brothers here. I am not against Christians. I am against religious conversions. Dharmantaran, rashtrantaran hai (Change of religion is change of nationality). I am at your service. I am not bothered about a wooden chair; I have left a golden chair in my palace,” he said.

Bagicha, 500 km north of the capital Raipur, has become a prestige fight. It would test Judeo’s anti-conversion posturings. As for Kujur, he is the only Christian tribal candidate the Congress has put up in Chhattisgarh. Bagicha is said to be dominated by Christian tribals. So Jogi, too, is bent on defeating the BJP’s Ganesh Ram Bhagat.

Back in Mahadeo Dand — separated from Ranpur by a bumpy road through perhaps the most underdeveloped part of the state — Jogi’s wordplay was on in full swing.

Kamal ka phool paani mein hota hai aur pani mein current marta hai. Panja chhune se current nahi lagta (Lotus grows in water which can induce electric shock. But when you touch a hand, you do not get an electric shock). I have given you electricity but the BJP will give you shocks,” he said. Chhattisgarh is an electricity-surplus state.

“I have to fly to Tapkara next which is a long distance,” Jogi went on. “How will people know that I have finished my meeting here' You will have to shout ‘panja chhap zindabad’ with me so that the people there can listen to you.” He then made the crowd shout with him thrice.

In Ranpur, Judeo again travelled back in history. “I can see people here who have let me play in their laps as a child. This is a prestige battle for us. You have no option but to support me,” he said.

An elderly man, who was at both the meetings, said: “The Congress says it is winning. Judeo says the BJP is winning. If both are winning, then who is losing' Do they think we are fools'”

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