The irrepressible brand of Ajit Jogi politics

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Illustration: Mayangalambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayangalambam Dinesh

There are very few politicians who evoke such strong reactions as much as Ajit Jogi does in Chhattisgarh. Either you are with him or you are completely against him. It may be apt to say that the mere mention of Ajit Jogi gives sleepless nights to almost the whole of the Congress party state leadership. From being the first chief minister of the state, his proximity to 10 Janpath, to the allegations by senior Congress leaders that he was behind their defeat in 2008 assembly elections, politics has always meant power for this determined and extremely focused politician.

How much the Jogi factor works in Chhattisgarh can be gauged from the fact that even the BJP is partly dependent on him to sink Congress’ prospects by at least 8-10 seats. With a total of 90 assembly seats this easily has the potential to make or break Congress’ chances of stopping Raman Singh’s efforts to score a hat trick.

In 2008, Ajit Jogi had defeated Dhyan Singh Porte from Marwahi (a reserved constituency) by 42,000 votes which was 34.87 percent of the total valid votes. Having also won reserved seats handsomely from Marwahi both in 2003 and 2008, Ajit Jogi can easily be called the only Congress leader who has a pan-state presence. His command over Satnami and Christian vote banks makes him an influencing factor in almost 15-20 seats. Knowing fully well that not many in the party will accept him as the leader, Jogi for the last few months has worked very hard to project himself as an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP – while being aware that in a 90-seat assembly even a party with 10 seats can emerge as king maker. But this time the party high command had different plans. They refused to play ball with him especially after the biggest naxal attack on a political rally saw almost all of the party leadership wiped out. Congress then appointed Charan Das Mahant, a known Jogi baiter, as the Chhattisgarh Congress chief, a move which infuriated the Jogi camp. But with Mahant having a clear backing from the party high command, they couldn’t do much about it. The cordiality of the situation, or the lack of it, in the Congress party can be gauged from the fact that both the Jogi camp and Charan Das Mahant and Pushpesh Baghel have filed complaints against each other to the AICC.

One of the reasons the Congress high command is reluctant to part ways with Ajit Jogi is the fact that within six months of the assembly elections, the all important 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be underway. The Congress party knows that in 2014 every single seat is important and Jogi can easily hurt their chances. The litmus test for all the warring factions within the Congress will be when the full list of candidates is declared. Ajit Jogi knows that 2013 assembly election will be the deciding factor not only his future but also the future of his equally ambitious son Amit Jogi.

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