The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bouquet bribe to brush off blot

New Delhi, Dec. 8: Bouquet in hand, Ajit Jogi is hoping to meet Sonia Gandhi on her birthday tomorrow — even gatecrash if need be — and regain a place in her good books.

The former Chhattisgarh chief minister, who was suspended from the party in the wake of the bribery scandal, has been making repeated attempts to get an audience with Sonia, but in vain.

Jogi is now hoping that, like any ordinary Congressman, he will manage to gain entry into Sonia’s 10 Janpath residence “uninvited”. The disgraced leader plans to greet his party chief on her birthday and also explain his position.

“For the last several years, Jogi has been visiting Sonia on the occasion of her birthday. We hope he will be able to greet her tomorrow as well,” said a close aide of the former chief minister.

Jogi is living in the hope that his party will back him in the difficult days ahead. However, Jogi, who is fast losing clout in the Chhattisgarh Congress unit after his suspension, is also finding himself isolated by party leaders in the capital. He has also shifted from Chhattisgarh Bhavan — the state guesthouse in Delhi — to a Rajya Sabha member’s official flat on South Avenue.

The withdrawal of Jogi’s suspension seems a far cry at the moment with the treasury benches in Parliament piling pressure on Sonia. The mood in the party, too, is against association with Jogi’s “misadventure”. A four-member committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee heard his case against suspension last night, but indications today were that it was in no hurry to make any recommendation to Sonia.

Party chief spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy said Jogi, apart from committing the party’s support in writing to the formation of a non-BJP government without the high command’s approval, was also guilty of “grave impropriety” as he tried to overturn the people’s mandate.

Reddy was echoing the widespread anger within the party. At the Congress Working Committee meeting yesterday, almost every leader is believed to have spoken against Jogi. Matters turned so bitter that Sonia cut short the discussion by announcing that she would set up a panel to deal with the controversy.

Party treasurer Motilal Vora, an anti-Jogi leader from Chhattisgarh, is believed to have said that Jogi has committed an “unpardonable crime”.

The tainted Congress leader did not get much support from Vilasrao Deshmukh — the party working committee member in charge of Chhattisgarh — either.

Deshmukh is learnt to have squarely blamed Jogi for the Chhattisgarh poll debacle, saying he turned the entire election campaign into a Jogi-versus-the-rest affair. “The Congress was Jogi and Jogi was the Congress.”

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