| Ajit Jogi addresses a news conference in Raipur after the Congress debacle. (PTI)
Dec. 4: The BJP has started zeroing in on Raman Singh, an ayurveda practitioner, as chief minister of Chhattisgarh in the hope he would be able to read the “pulse of the people”, unlike Congress’ Ajit Jogi.
Hectic lobbying was on in the state capital of Raipur and Delhi over the coveted post in a day of dramatic developments that also saw Jogi fearing “witch-hunting” and “intimidation” now that he is out of power.
The state BJP chief’s name gained currency late in the day when the party leadership began weighing the pros and cons of Raman Singh, Union minister Ramesh Bais and Dilip Singh Judeo, in that order.
Raman, in keeping with his profession of a vaid, is considered sober unlike the flamboyant Judeo, who has been staking claim to the chair on grounds of his “martyrdom” in the cash-on-camera controversy. In Judeo’s scheme of things, the verdict would not have favoured the BJP had he not been “framed” in a “political conspiracy”.
But a number of party leaders, while sympathetic, are reluctant to back Judeo as they fear the gesture may hurt the sensibilities of the middle-class in the rest of the country, who would be crucial in the Lok Sabha polls in late 2004.
BJP sources also recalled that when the central leadership was scouting for a state chief a few years ago, both Judeo and Bais had preferred to be Union ministers.
“He (Raman) was a personal choice of M. Venkaiah Naidu and, today, both Naidu and Rajnath Singh are backing him,” a newly elected party MLA said in Raipur. Union agriculture minister Rajnath Singh is already in Raipur as a party observer along with colleague Swami Chinmayanand and BJP general secretary Sanjay Joshi to oversee the election of a legislature leader.
Raman’s Thakur caste, however, is posing a problem as some in the BJP believe that a tribal or a backward candidate should be made chief minister to neutralise Jogi’s “son of the soil” plank.
Bais, the second contender, has caste equations going for him but he is thought to have less political acumen than Jogi. The state BJP, while jubilant over its success, is in no mood to take the outgoing chief minister lightly, emphasising the way Jogi had gone about boasting and engineering splits in the BJP legislature party the last time.
Jogi was incommunicado for a good part of the day till the Congress leadership literally asked him to accept defeat. Sources close to him said apart from the electoral setback, Jogi was concerned about his son’s “well-being” as he feared that Amit’s reported involvement in controversies could give the new BJP government a chance to “get even” over the Judeo episode.
Amit had shot to notoriety for all the wrong reasons after Jogi became chief minister of the newly created state. He earned the dubious title of “Sanjay Gandhi of Chhattisgarh” based on reports, sometimes exaggerated, of his interference in governance and administration.
Jogi is also worried about cases pertaining to his caste status that are pending before courts in Bilaspur, Shahdol and elsewhere.