This could be the gift the father had waited long to give his son. Former Chhattisgarh chief minister and Congress leader Ajit Jogi, 67, known to be perhaps a little too doting on his 35-year-old son Amit, has got him the party ticket for the Marwahi assembly constituency.
It is no mean gift. The senior Jogi had won in 2003 and 2008 with record margins without campaigning even once in the tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh seat in Bilaspur district.
Both Jogi’s son and wife have got the Congress ticket for the upcoming polls in November, signalling senior Jogi’s significant rehabilitation in the party corridors of power. After his defeats at the hands of the BJP in 2003 and 2008, the Congress had virtually sidelined him. His son became accused in a murder case (later acquitted), and Jogi was paralysed after a car crash.
While the killing of Pradesh Congress Committee chief Nand Kumar Patel, veteran Congress leader VC Shukla and others by Maoists in May might have brought the Jogis back in the state’s politics, Marwahi could take them a step further. Some even believe that the rival BJP has kept this reserved ST seat, about 300 km from Raipur, safe for Jogi.
Marwahi has 199 villages where nearly 90% people live on farming. More than 65% of the population is tribal and about 8% are scheduled caste. The people are firm Jogi supporters. “We trust him. There is a sense of belonging,” said Deena Ram, 47, a local farmer.
Jogi defeated the BJP candidate by more than 42,000 votes, the biggest margin in the 2008 state polls, without visiting Marwahi even once. In 2003, his margin was even bigger — 54,000 votes.
“Jogi’s personality matters. The people are not concerned about party manifesto. They see Jogi as someone who listens, addresses their needs,” said Ved Chand Jain, a senior local journalist.
The BJP has so far failed to create any impact here despite raking up the issue of conversion of tribals to Christianity. Shankar Kanwar, a BJP ticket aspirant, differs. “Gone are the days when personality used to be the deciding factor. Jogi has little time for Marwahi now,” he said.
Jogi remains unaffected. “I need to devote my time for the party as I am a leader at the national and state levels. Being aware of the constituency’s issues is more important than visiting (it),” Jogi told HT.