Chhattisgarh's 1st Chief Minister Ajit Jogi passes away

Chhattisgarh ex-CM Ajit Jogi passes away at 74; three-day mourning in state

Credit: Facebook (ajitjogijcc)

Ajit Jogi, the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh passed away in Raipur on Friday. He was 74. A shrewd politician, Jogi had the knack of identifying opportunities quite early, but breathed his last struggling to make a mark in the state he ruled with an iron-fist from 2000-03.

Jogi's proximity to former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi catapulted his political career in the Congress, stunning the well-entrenched party seniors.

Jogi’s was a rags-to-riches story of a boy born to tribal parents who made it big with sheer hard work – earning a mechanical engineering degree with the gold medal in 1967, clearing the UPSC exams the next year and getting selected for the Indian Police Service, only to clear the exams yet gain in 1970 and make the cut to the Indian Administrative Service.

As Collector of Indore, Jogi struck friendship with Rajiv Gandhi, who was then a pilot with the Indian Airlines, getting him home-cooked breakfast at the airport. The airport officials were instructed to inform the Collector whenever Rajiv’s flight was due.

The rapport paid off in 1985 when Rajiv, after becoming Prime Minister, picked up Jogi as his candidate to the Rajya Sabha taking senior leaders such as Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh by surprise.

His proximity to Congress President Sonia Gandhi saw him handpicked for the post of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister when the new state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, ignoring the powerful Shukla brothers – Vidya Charan and Shyama Charan who were considered frontrunners.

Though Jogi began his innings on the basis of rich administrative experience, his authoritarian attitude and weakness for his son, who is known to have wielded considerable influence on the state bureaucracy led to his unpopularity.

In 2003, Jogi lost the assembly elections to BJP which ruled Chhatisgarh for 15 long years but kept his hold on the party, come what may. Congress also refrained from taking action against him, but the last proverbial straw came when he was accused of sabotaging the party’s prospects by ensuring the withdrawal of the official candidate in the Antagarh bypoll in 2014.

While his son Amit was expelled by the party, the Congress leadership never took action against Jogi, who eventually found himself isolated in the party.

Despite being paralysed below the waist after a road accident in 2004, Jogi remained active till the end trying to regain his lost glory in the state. He quit the Congress in 2016 and floated a regional outfit Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi). In the 2018 assembly elections, Jogi aligned with Mayawati’s BSP in a bid to emerge kingmaker in the state. However, a landslide victory by the Congress put paid to his dreams.

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