The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rigging slur on central forces

Raipur, Dec. 6: Outgoing Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi has sought to deflect some of the mistrust and ridicule of his own party members for the humiliating defeat in the Assembly polls to the central forces deployed in Naxalite-dominated areas.

Jogi has tried to bolster his allegation of rigging during the elections by saying — barely 16 hours before the new chief minister is to be sworn in — that the BJP victory is not a “100 per cent legitimate verdict”.

The BJP, however, denied the allegations. “His artificially exalted status makes him dangerously ill-informed about his eroding support base,” said BJP spokesman Prabhat Jha.

Jogi attributed the massive turnout of voters to “a fake phenomenon created by central forces”. It was unimaginable that 70-80 per cent voters turned up at the booths in Bastar and Surguja, where the poor tribals cannot come out of their homes for fear of Naxalites, asserted the outgoing chief minister.

“The role of the Central Reserve Police Force is suspect. They were used to execute a well-organised scheme to cast false votes in the 20 seats in Bastar where the Congress failed to get a single seat,” Jogi alleged and accused junior home minister Swami Chinmayanand of using central forces for the purpose.

“The Union minister for home stayed put at Jagdalpur for three days. What was he doing there' All he was successful in doing is to instruct the voters to stay away so that the BJP men could cast fake votes,” alleged the outgoing chief minister.

The turnout of voters is traditionally low in the area, primarily because of illiteracy and the fear of militants, said Congress tribal candidate Manoj Mandabi, who lost from the Bhanupratappur constituency in Bastar.

“Booths where five to 40 voters have turned up for years recorded polling of 300-500 this time,” said Mandabi. Five other candidates present with Jogi at the news meet felt the situation was the same in Narayanpur and other blocks of Bastar district.

However, some senior Congress leaders pointed out that nine of the BJP leaders who had split the BJP in 2002, including Tarun Chatterjee, lost the elections. This, they said, indicates that anger had piled up against Jogi’s style of functioning and his desperate bid to find excuses was an effort to save face.

BJP chief minister-designate Raman Singh said his government’s priority would be to “remove the climate of terror in the state” that Jogi had created. “I would like to make people feel that my government is there to protect them,” said Singh, who is to be sworn in tomorrow.

Jogi has apologised to the chief minister-designate for not being able to attend the swearing-in as he would be away in Delhi to attend a Congress working committee meeting.

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