How Jogis Have Been Caught In Their Own Sting
The by-election for the Antagarh assembly seat in Chhattisgarh was held in September 2014. Here, the Congress candidate withdrew from contest, and the result was an easy BJP win. Now tapes have emerged which allegedly suggest that the withdrawal was affected by Amit Jogi, son of Ajit Jogi in return of money. As a result, the junior Jogi has been expelled from the party for six years and the Chhattisgarh unit of the party seems to be demanding similar action on Ajit Jogi as well. However, this was not the first time that Jogis find themselves in the centre of a controversy.
Till mid-2003, Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi was going strong in politics. First, as a high-profile national spokesman of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in New Delhi, he had media eating out of his hands. Later, as the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, he had both his party apparatus and the state administration at his beck and call.
During his reign, he faced no challenge to his leadership, either from within his own party or the badly divided Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But once the Election Commission announced the schedule for the first Assembly elections in the state, the process of decay set in. Jogi refused to concede space to the central leadership of the party, including Sonia Gandhi and insisted on being the fulcrum of his party’s campaign in the run up to the elections. He wanted to be the Congress.
He put up life-size posters and cut-outs of himself all around Raipur, making the Congress subservient to him in the process. He also managed to run afoul of the Election Commission with the body censuring him for having violated the model code of conduct after his government distributed school bags to children in the state with his pictures embossed on them.
What looked like a cakewalk for the Congress in middle of the year had turned into a contest by November 2003 and a fragmented BJP started looking like a match. The former bureaucrat got charge-sheeted in an Intelligence Bureau fraud case and his tribal antecedents came under the scanner.
This was the beginning of his political decline. The former Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) President has hopped onto one crisis after another since then. Barring his brief resurrection here and recognition of his political clout there, Jogi has never really been able to claw his way back and continued to be under scrutiny for one wrongdoing or the other.
To add further to his woes, his son Amit Jogi’s name surfaced in a cash-for-environment-clearance scam involving the then central Minister of State for Environment & Forest, Dilip Singh Judeo on the eve of polls. It was alleged that Amit Jogi trapped Judeo through Akash channel employee Rajat Prasad and Bhupinder Singh Patel, who paid the bribe money to Judeo.
The aftermath of the 2003 Assembly elections brought Jogi’s own name into what was known as the MLA bribery sting. Since then the names of father-son duo have figured in numerous controversies. In fact, they seem to have become the superstars of sting films in Chhattisgarh, often training the hidden cameras on their adversaries within and outside their party fold.
Though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) expressed its inability to charge Ajit Jogi in the MLA bribery scandal on the grounds that an ‘acting Chief Minister’ cannot be treated as a public servant, former State Finance Commission Chairman and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) points man, Virendra Pandey has challenged the investigative agency’s contention in a higher court.
Besides the stings, the father-son duo has regularly figured in controversies regarding what can be called their personal backgrounds. Birthplace, date of birth, domicile and caste – you name it and there is controversy involving either the father or the son.
Documents show Amit Jogi to have been born in three different places on different dates while the dust over Ajit Jogi’s tribal status has never settled down. Amit Jogi’s name also surfaced in the murder of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ramavatar Jaggi as well. A sting features him there as well. Jaggi was killed by alleged hired sharp shooters on 4 June, 2003 in Raipur.
The latest purported sting invloving the Jogis also includes Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son-in-law Puneet Gupta, and Jogi loyalists Firoz Siddiqi and Ameen Memon. According a report in the Indian Express, the group is heard talking on phone in a way that suggests that a deal was allegedly struck between them to make Congress candidate Manturam Pawar withdraw his candidature from Antagarh seat in Kanker district before voting took place there on 13 September, 2014. The withdrawal of Pawar from the fray paved the way for BJP’s victory in the bypoll.
Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) President Bhupesh Patel has publicly said that his party had known about Jogi’s role in withdrawal of Pawar a day before the date of withdrawal kicked in.
Amit Jogi, an MLA from Marwahi assembly constituency, who claims to have filed a defamation suit against Indian Express, has since been expelled from the Congress for six years. The state Congress is also seeking stringent action against Ajit Jogi, who has filed a first information report (FIR) in the case on his part.
Ajit Jogi for years has been at loggerheads with the state Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh and ploughed a lonely furrow. There are allegations that he has promoted his son, wife Renu Jogi and handful of his supporters at the cost of the party. Renu Jogi is also a Congress MLA in the state.
His rivalry with state Congress presidents and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaders and other prominent Congress leaders has been so publicised that when the entire state Congress leadership including, former state Home Minister Mahendra Karma, Vidya Charan Shukla and then Chhattisgarh Congress Chief Nand Kumar Patel were attacked in a Naxal attack on May 25, 2013 in Darbha valley of Sukma district, conspiracy theorists pointed a finger at Ajit Jogi.
During last assembly elections in November 2013, the Congress did its utmost to accommodate Jogi’s supporters in its candidates’ list despite being aware that Ajit Jogi had become its Achilles’ heel. The former chief minister had become such a negative factor in the state that the BJP did everything to scare voters in his name saying that its defeat could bring Jogi back into power. In spite of not being his party’s chief ministerial candidate and being only one among the galaxy of state campaigners, Jogi continued to be an issue throughout during run up to the multi-phase elections.
Jogi has also been locked into power tussle with current PCC chief Bhupesh Patel for over a year. The two have constantly and publicly been calling each other names. The former did not even campaign for Congress candidates during civic elections in the state in December 2014 after which the latter called him a ‘deserter’. Patel has for long suspected that Jogi has sabotaged Congress’ revival in the state in cahoots with Chief Minister Raman Singh.
This is the reason why Patel has been camping in Delhi to get Jogi booted out from the party. The PCC President has given a fait accompli to his party’s central leader by recommending that Jogi, like his son be expelled for six years from the party for bringing disrepute to it. Amit Jogi has been expelled by the PCC. Ajit Jogi, on the other hand, has sought Sonia Gandhi’s permission to sue Patel for defamation.
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