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However, Jogi is unfazed. He is not campaigning in Marwahi. And Congress workers are not worried either that their leader is not campaigning.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2003 15:04 IST
Parikshit Y Joshi (PTI)
Parikshit Y Joshi (PTI)

This non-descript village in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh has suddenly assumed prominence but the only sign that Marvahi is the constituency of the newly-carved state's first Chief Minister Ajit Jogi is that it is well connected to neighbouring villages with asphalted roads.

The former bureaucrat-turned-politician appears to have a larger-than-life profile being in the news continuously, at times for wrong reasons. However, he faces a stiff challenge from BJP's senior leader Nand Kumar Sai, the leader of the opposition in the 90-member Assembly, in December 1 assembly polls.

The entry of State Women's Commission Chairperson Hemvant Porte of NCP into the fray has made it a triangular contest in a field of seven where BJP is making corruption and conversion as its main poll planks.

Porte may be considered a political lightweight compared to Jogi and Sai but the fact cannot be ignored that her late husband Bhanvarsingh Porte had won from this constituency on previous four occasions--thrice on Congress ticket while as a BJP nominee once.

It is to be noted that the Dilip Singh Judeo controversy, behind which BJP alleges Jogi's hand, does not appear to find any mention.

According to local pollsters, Porte is likely to wreck Jogi's chances even if she is able to secure 10-12 thousand votes in this constituency of 1.38 lakh voters. It is worth mentioning that Porte commands a considerable influence on the tribal population.

However, Jogi is unfazed. He is not campaigning in Marvahi. "If I have done any developmental work in this village, then people will ensure that I romp home victorious," Jogi told his followers after filing nomination at Bilaspur, the district headquarters, on November 12. And Congress workers are not worried either that their leader is not campaigning.

"We feel that Jogi should not come for canvassing. The people and party workers will ensure his victory," party's district general secretary Gyanendra Upadhyaya, who is handling the campaigning, told PTI at the Congress' election office in Marvahi.

Sitting along with the partymen, Upadhyaya rubbishes aside Porte's candidature saying, "Jogi is not going to be affected by it."

Though villagers say that her presence will necessarily bring down Jogi's victory margin of 51,000 votes in the by-poll he contested in 2001 after assuming the reins of the state.

Ask about cash-on-camera controversy involving former Union Minister Dilip Singh Judev, both Congress and BJP workers skirt the issue.

"It is a non-issue, conspiracy hatched by Congress," IP Tiwari of BJP says and with Amit's name being dragged into the controversy, the Congress workers are keeping discreet silence over the issue.

"The tapes have exposed the BJP which always claims of probity in public life," Upadhyaya said.

This is not the first contest between Jogi and Sai. The BJP leader had earlier lost to Jogi in 1998 Lok Sabha elections from Raigarh constituency.

"Jogi will repeat his performance this time with an emphatic victory," Congress workers say and they are banking on the history of the constituency while making the claim.

Since 1952 polls, Marvahi has elected Congress for a record nine times while favouring BJP only on two occasions. Most Congress workers sarcastically remark that Sai was asked to contest against Jogi at the last moment only to remove him from the race of the chief ministership.

But Porte, who incidentally had canvassed for Jogi in the by-poll, says her fight is against the "corruption and suppressive rule of Congress Government. I want to do justice to the tribals of the region and work for their uplift."

Sai, on other hand, is fighting on the issue of corruption and conversions. At the same time questioning the "tribal status" of Jogi.

But Upadhyaya says the matter of Jogi's caste certificate is being raised by the opposition merely to "divert" the people's attention from the real issue of development.

Since Jogi became the Chief Minister, he has ensured road connectivity to Marvahi, solved the electricity and water scarcity on war-footing and improved health and education facilities, Upadhyaya claimed.

However, BJP's IP Tiwari says that despite being the Chief Minister's constituency, Marvahi has not developed in the last three years under Jogi's rule. Development is lacking in the villages and poor tribals and downtrodden are suffering since the Government has "failed" to do anything for their welfare, he says.

The mood in the BJP camp is upbeat following a public meeting of Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and filmstar- turned-Union Minister Vinod Khanna. "You will witness a big upset after the results are announced," Tiwari says.

NCP state unit chief Vidyacharan Shukla and senior leader Arvind Netam have canvassed for Porte.

First Published: Nov 26, 2003 09:54 IST