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Shukla shifts focus after Jogi accident

BJP candidate from Mahasamud V.C. Shukla seems to be a worried man after his rival and former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi met with an accident early on Sunday morning.
PTI | By Pradip Kumar Maitra, Mahasamund
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2004 11:32 AM IST

BJP candidate from Mahasamud V.C. Shukla seems to be a worried man after his rival and former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi met with an accident early on Sunday morning.

With Jogi undergoing treatment for serious spinal injuries in Mumbai, his loyalists hope to turn the mishap to their advantage by garnering sympathy votes while Shukla has been left speechless.

Since the accident is bound to swing a few votes of sympathy for the injured Congress nominee, the BJP has had to change its strategy.

Shukla had so far targeted Jogi's ‘autocratic’ three-year regime in the state, but the veteran politician has now changed track and is focussing on the achievements of the Vajpayee government and a few welfare schemes implemented by the state's new BJP government.

Both Jogi and Shukla had made personal attacks against each other and both were also apprehensive of large-scale violence during the elections and sought the intervention of the EC through separate petitions.

Now the situation has changed. Shukla did not even mention Jogi's name at Baghbahera where he addressed a public meeting, with deputy PM L.K. Advani on Monday.

Shukla also addressed at least six meetings in Basna and Khallari regions in the constituency on Monday, but did not mention Jogi once.

A Shukla supporter in Mahasamund candidly admitted that the BJP candidate was in a ticklish position in the wake of Jogi's accident. "The Congress nominee is certainly at an advantage," he said.

When asked, Shukla said, “Jogi is a clever and hardworking leader. He escaped with his life by the grace of God. I wish him a speedy recovery," adding that his campaign would go on as usual.

The Congress has set up a four-member team, comprising former Chhattisgarh home minister Nand Kumar Patel, Rajya Sabha member Ramadhar Kashyap, senior party leader Pradip Choube and former legislator Agni Chandrakar to monitor and coordinate the campaigning in the absence of Jogi. They plan to take Jogi's message to the masses through recorded audio and video tapes.

Besides, hundreds of Jogi supporters will offer pujas at different temples in the region for his speedy recovery — also an attempt to create a sympathy wave. His supporters are also determined to spearhead his campaign on their own.

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