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Ajit Jogi (1946 - 2020)

Ajit Jogi (1946 - 2020)

Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, died on May 29 due to cardiac arrest, after battling for life for the last 20 days in the hospital. The 74 years old political leader was a Protestant Christian. He is survived by his wife dentist Dr Renu and son Amit, both are active in politics. He excelled for his administrative abilities, diplomatic skills. He was a promoter of the backward and minority communities and was known for oratorical skills.

Ajit Jogi was born of Christian parents near Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh on April 29, 1946. His father Kashi Prasad Jogi hailed from the local SC Satnami community and his mother Kanti Mani of a tribal community. Both were teachers in the (Protestant) mission school there.

 After his high school studies at the Mission School in Bilaspur, Ajit Jogi studied Mechanical Engineering in Bhopal, winning the University Gold Medal in 1968 and was also elected student leader. Having worked for a year as a lecturer at the National Institute of Technology in Raipur (1967-68), he entered the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1968 and after two years he joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Then for 12 years he served as the collector of Shahdol, Raipur and Indore in the undivided Madhya Pradesh (MP).

Influenced by Arjun Singh, a political leader of MP, Jogi joined the Indian National Congress Party during Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure. He was elected for two terms to Rajya Sabha (1986-1998) from the undivided Madhya Pradesh. In the Congress party and the government Jogi held many important posts like its spokesman, a committee member of the Human Resource Development, a member of the SC & ST etc. He was elected to the Parliament from the tribal Christian populated Raigarh constituency in 1998. Claiming himself to be a tribal, he wanted to be appointed the Chief Minister (CM) of MP, when Dig Vijay Singh was its CM.

When Chhattisgarh state was created from Madhya Pradesh in 2000, Jogi was appointed its first chief minister from Nov 9, 2000 - Dec 6, 2003. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president allegedly preferred Jogi, sideling Vidhya Charan (VC) Shukla, another strong contender to the chair. Since Jogi was not a MLA, he got himself elected to the Legislative Assembly from Marwahi in 2001.  With his organizational skills, diplomatic talents and intellectual foresight, Jogi laid foundation for the infrastructural development of the backward state.

In the first general election in the new state in Dec 2003, Jogi was defeated by the BJP’s Chandu Lal Sahu merely by 133 votes from Mahasamund constituency, near Raipur.  But Ajit Jogi got elected to the 14th Lok Sabha, 2004-2008, from Mahasamund constituency itself defeating his archrival VC Shukla, who contested on BJP’s ticket. During the election campaign, Jogi met with a fatal car accident on April 20, 2004 near Gariabandh, 130 km away the capital city Raipur. Since then he was on wheelchair, although he was very active in politics. In 2008 he got elected to the Legislative Assembly representing the tribal reserved Marwahi constituency.

Jogi and his son Amit were arrested in June 2007 in connection with the murder of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) treasurer Ram Avtar Jaggi on June 4, 2003. But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), after five years of registering the case, declared him not guilty. So the BJP alleged that the ruling Congress-led UPA at the centre misused the CBI to protect Ajit Jogi.

Rebelling against the Congress, Ajit Jogi left the party and formed a rival Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) party on June 6, 2016.  His party was expected to eat up the Congress votes, especially the predominant Satnami SC votes, to which his father belonged to. To win the dalit votes, he aligned with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

 But in the following Assembly election in December 2018, his party won only a few seats and the Congress returned to power with thumbing majority. Ajit Jogi and his wife won the election, but his daughter-in-law Richi lost the election from the SC reserved seat. Neither Jogi could again form the government in the state nor could he play the trump card, as he allegedly expected. After the first dismal performance against high hopes, many of his supporters returned to the Congress and Jogi’s party became insignificant. The death of the party’s head is also seen as the death-knell of his party.

As Jogi said in his first speech as the chief minister, he was a dreamer and wanted to achieve his dreams. And he did that. And he was also a fighter - till the last breath of his life. He did have a great will power to swim against the current. As the present Congress chief minister of the state Bhupesh Baghel condoled at his death, “Jogi will be always remembered by the people of the state.”

(Published on 8th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 24)