Ajit Jogi: A formidable leader and pivot of tribal politics dead at 74
Ajit Pramod Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, who died on Friday at the age of 74, was the pivot of tribal and dalit politics in the state carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.He emerged as a formidable political force in the tribal-dominated state he led for three years from November 2000 at the helm of a Congress government.
Left in awe by the power and charisma of a Parsi Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who visited his village when he was a boy, Jogi always nursed the ambition of becoming a civil servant. A Marathi Brahmin teacher guided him in the direction by prodding him to learn English.
Always brilliant in studies, Jogi went on to study mechanical engineering in Bhopal before achieving his ambition. He joined the Indian Police Service first, but while training in Mussoorie, he realized that IAS officers tended to treat officers of other services with condescension. He joined IAS in 1971, getting the eighth rank in the civil services examination, according to Union Public Service Commission records.
Jogi served as collector for 12 years in different districts before resigning in 1986 and joining the Congress party. He was sent to the Rajya Sabha twice by the Congress, in 1986-92 and 1992-98.
It was when he was serving as the collector in Raipur that Jogi became acquainted with Rajiv Gandhi, who was then an airline plot.
“Rajiv ji was a pilot and when he used to come to Raipur , I visited him at airport. He always treated me as a friend.. We used to talk for hours on various issues in the VIP lounge of Raipur airport,” Jogi told this reporter in an interview in 2018.
Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India in 1984 after his mother and predecessor Indira was assassinated. In 1986, the Congress needed a tribal face to represent it in the Rajya Sabha and party politician Digvijay Singh suggested the name of Ajit Jogi. Within a day, Jogi resigned from the bureaucracy and entered politics.
Owing to his sharp intellect and political acumen, Ajit Jogi rose up the ranks in the Congress and became party spokesman and when Chhattisgarh was created in 2000 became its first chief minister. His political fortunes declined because of infighting within the Congress.
After defeat in the 2003 assembly elections, Jogi became the centre of many controversies.In the same year, the Bharatiya Janata Party released an audio tape purportedly to show he tried to break up the party’s Chhattisgarh unit by bribing its MLAs
Fielded as the Congress candidate in the 2004 parliamentary election from Mahasamund constituency against Vidya Charan Shukla, who contested the poll on a BJP ticket, Jogi entered the Lok Sabha. It was during the campaign in Mahasamund that Jogi met with a road accident that left him wheelchair-bound.
Jogi parted ways with the Congress in 2016 after he and his son were alleged to have fixed the Antahgarh byelection in Kanker district.In June 2016, Jogi formed his own party, the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J).
In the 2018 assembly elections Jogi managed to win seven seats in a coalition with the Bahujan Samaj Party. Out of 90 assembly seats, Congress won 68 and the BJP was reduced to 15. Jogi himself won his traditional seat, Marwahi
Jogi suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this month and had been in a Raipur hospital since in a comatose state.He is survived by his wife Renu Jogi, MLA from Kota, and son Amit Jogi.
Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel announced three days of state mourning for Jogi, who will be cremated with full state honours.
“The death of the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Shri Ajit Jogi is a major political loss for the state of Chhattisgarh. He will live on in the memories of all the people of the state,” tweeted Baghel.