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Shukla spelt Jogi?s doom

Guess who cooked Ajit Jogi's goose? No, not the BJP's star campaigners or enterprising backroom boys who pulled it off in MP and Rajasthan.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2003 12:19 IST
Vinod Sharma and Rajnish Sharma
Vinod Sharma and Rajnish Sharma

Guess who cooked Ajit Jogi's goose? No, not the BJP's star campaigners or enterprising backroom boys who pulled it off in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Congress is in the doghouse in Chhattisgarh largely because of Vidya Bhaiyya's Nationalist Congress Party.

A veteran Congressman, Vidya Charan Shukla was virtually driven out of the party in the run-up to the assembly polls. As Jogi heaped insults on him in Chhattisgarh — the Shukla family's bastion even in undivided MP — the party high command did little to assuage his ruffled sentiments, leave alone meeting his demand for a leadership change in the state.

Estranged to the hilt since the 1999 Lok Sabha polls when he was denied the party ticket for Mahasamund, Shukla was painted as a "spent force" by Jogi, then a favourite of the party's central leadership. Jogi had his way, leaving VC with no option except settling scores through the ballot.

"I may not win the elections. But I'll make sure that Jogi ceases to be chief minister," Shukla had then told HT.

The old war-horse couldn't have been more prophetic. His party has got only one seat in the 90-member House. But the aggregate 8.59 per cent vote it polled sealed the Congress' fate in the tribal state.

Detailed constituency-wise results show that the NCP ensured the BJP's victory in nearly 20 seats, securing 4 to 21 per cent of the votes polled. The combined Congress-NCP vote in these seats was way ahead of the BJP's, which, to its own disbelief, romped home with a tally of 50 against the ruling party's 36.

For instance, in Dondi Lohara, the BJP got 40.64 and the Congress 31.18 per cent vote. What made the difference was the NCP's 21.74. Likewise, at Mahasamund, the BJP won by a little over one per cent margin in a three-way contest that saw the NCP cornering 15.48 per cent of the votes.

So pronounced in individual constituencies, this trend found equal expression at the state level; the BJP's 35.02 per cent vote was only a fraction more than the Congress' 34.98. In a straight contest, the Congress would have decimated the saffron party in the state.

But that was not to be. And that's where lies a lesson for the Congress leadership, which could have retained Chhattisgarh by keeping its flock together. More than the BJP, it was Shukla who stoked the public ire that consumed Jogi.

(With inputs from Pradip Kumar Maitra)

First Published: Dec 06, 2003 01:13 IST