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As dust settles, fortunes of Cong stalwarts hang in balance

The party's rout in the three Hindi belt states has put a question mark on the political fortunes of Messrs Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot and Ajit Jogi.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2003 01:58 IST

Till the other day, they were counted among the Congress' best and the bravest. But the party's rout in the three Hindi belt states has put a question mark on the political fortunes of Messrs Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot and Ajit Jogi.

Of the three, Digvijay was known for his political savvy, Gehlot his honesty and hard work and Jogi the tendency to live by the sword that has apparently slain the Congress in Chhattisgarh.

The last two named have, in fact, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Their failure to deliver at the hustings has set Congress circles abuzz with the question whether elections are too serious a business to be left to chief ministers.

Chhattisgarh could easily have been Jogi's Christmas cake for Sonia. But his proclivity to grandstand, to go for the overkill, saw the BJP gain from what's widely perceived a Congress self-goal. The swagger stick the former IAS officer poked in the eyes of the likes of Vidya Charan Shukla — who quit the party to join the NCP — worked like a magic wand for the saffron brigade. His unbridled arrogance stirred the sulking VHP to even take up cudgels on behalf of a tainted Dilip Singh Judeo.

While Jogi went about expending the goodwill he initially enjoyed in the newly formed tribal state, Digvijay showcased himself as MP's Mohan Lal Sukhadia, who ruled Rajasthan for 17 years. He refused to accept defeat till he had it staring in his face.

In retrospect, it's evident that Diggy Raja had his priorities wrong for the 10 years that he was in power. He gave his people primary health care centres but no roads to access them. And when results poured in on Thursday, it was obvious that the electorate in power-starved Madhya Pradesh made light work of defeating his dreams of a hat-trick. A decade of self-willed oblivion is now a reality for the chief minister with a cosmetic smile.

Like Digvijay, Gehlot, his relatively low-profile Rajasthan counterpart, is equally hard put to say cheese before TV cameras. His refusal to field new faces in 50-odd constituencies — where anti-incumbency could have been contained by discarding sitting MLAs — alienated even the minorities.

But the Rajasthan chief minister's bid to retain power was defeated by the Jats' distrust of his leadership. Party big-wigs from this community campaigned mostly for their siblings, leaving the Congress' fate to God, Gehlot and the Gandhi name.

First Published: Dec 05, 2003 01:55 IST