Bilaspur stands out as an exception in an otherwise cool election scene in Chhattisgarh. The reason is that two stalwarts from the state are battling against each other here — flamboyant BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo and former chief minister Ajit Jogi, who is canvassing for his wife Dr Renu Jogi who is the Congress candidate.
Bilaspur, converted from a reserved Scheduled Caste seat to a general one after delimitation, has been a BJP stronghold since 1996.
Jogi mobilizing all the resources at his command to get Renu elected from here. The former chief minister had managed to secure a Congress ticket for his wife after replacing the party's first choice, Ashish Singh Thakur.
The rivalry here evokes memories of the controversial sting operation of Judeo being caught on camera accepting money. The sting was allegedly engineered by Jogi on the eve of 2003 assembly election, which the BJP won.
Said the wheelchair-bound Ajit Jogi of Judeo, "Flaunting his moustache, dress, language and etiquette are not appreciated in Bilaspur. Voters can't understand how someone staying 400 km away in Jashpur will serve the constituency."
Judeo's retort was: "When someone from Italy can fight elections in India, why can't Judeo contest from anywhere in his own state?"
For Judeo however religious conversion overrides other issues. He has been associated with the Sangh’s religious re-conversion campaign for the past 33 years. He aims to bring tribals converted to Christianity into the Hindu fold.
Dr Renu Jogi, who resigned her government job as a doctor to launch her political career in December 2006, believes she will benefit from her native connection with Bilaspur and the support of women voters who constitute 48 per cent of the electorate here.
Jogi's Chhattisgarhi dialect gives Renu an edge over Judeo, who is not fluent in the regional dialect. The electoral fight however is being seen as one between Ajit Jogi and Judeo.