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Ajit Jogi, the founder of Chhattisgarh Janata Congress
Ajit Jogi, the founder of Chhattisgarh Janata Congress

Ajit Jogi, the original rebel, passes away at 74

  • The leader from Chhattisgarh was first spotted by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi when he was a district collector in Indore from 1981-85
  • Jogi was handpicked by Sonia Gandhi to lead Chhattisgarh which was carved out of Madhya Pradesh during the NDA-led government in 2000

NEW DELHI : Ajit Jogi - the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, one of the most prominent leaders in the state and remembered for his rebellious public life - passed away at the age of 74 on Friday after prolonged illness in Raipur. He was one of the most prominent political leaders of the state who rebelled against Congress’ top leadership to form his own regional political outfit.

Jogi began his political journey nearly 35 years ago when he joined the Congress party after quitting his job as Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer posted in Madhya Pradesh. He left the government service in 1985 and became a Member of Parliament (MP) in Rajya Sabha in 1986. Jogi remained a member of the Upper House till 1998.

The leader from Chhattisgarh was first spotted by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi when he was a district collector in Indore from 1981-85. Interestingly, Jogi was among the remaining few political veterans of Congress who had worked closely with former prime minister Indira Gandhi, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Jogi was handpicked in 2000 by Sonia Gandhi, who was the party chief then, to lead Chhattisgarh which was carved out of Madhya Pradesh during the central regime of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2000. He remained chief minister of the state till 2003 but could not return to power. Jogi was succeeded by Bharatiya Janata Party’s Raman Singh who retained the top post till 2018 after making way for Congress’ incumbent Bhupesh Baghel.

Jogi rose to prominence in Congress in 1996 when he became part of All India Congress Committee (AICC) in 1996 and two years later he became a member of Lok Sabha for the first time in 1998 when he won election from Raigarh in Chhattisgarh. After losing assembly election in 2003, Jogi returned to Parliament in May 2004 when he won the election from Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh.

B K Hariprasad, senior Congress leader who was incharge of Chhattisgarh when Congress initiated disciplinary proceedings against Ajit Jogi over charges of tarnishing party’s image, recalls that Jogi was an able administrator while serving on the top post in the state.

“We were colleagues in Rajya Sabha when Ajit Jogi was brought in as a lawmaker by Rajiv Gandhi in which former union minister Arjun Singh played a key role. After formation of the state of Chhattisgarh, Sonia Gandhi chose him to lead it and he ran the government with a free hand," Hariprasad told Mint. “He wanted to create his own leadership in the state but many felt that he was a much better administrator than he was a politician," Hariprasad added.

Senior Congress leaders recall how Jogi had survived a lethal car crash and despite moving around in a wheelchair, his grit towards public life remained high. Jogi was sidelined in the party for years after he quit the top post but returned to focus after nearly the entire state leadership of party passed away in a Maoist attack in Darbha valley of the state in 2013.

In 2016, soon after the disciplinary proceedings against him, Jogi raised a banner of revolt against the Congress leadership. He formed a political party of his own – Janta Congress Chhatttisgarh – which debuted in the 2018 assembly elections where it had an alliance with Mayawati led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Jogi contested the election and was currently serving as an MLA from his bastion – Marwahi assembly seat. Ajit Jogi’s son Amit Jogi, who was expelled from Congress in 2016, is the president of the regional outfit.

“The 20-year young state of Chhattisgarh has lost its father's shadow today. Not only me but Chhattisgarh has not just a leader but also a father. Honorable Ajit Jogi left his family of 2.5 crore people for heavenly abode. Chhattisgarh’s loved and the support of poor has left us today," Amit Jogi, Ajit Jogi’s son and president of the Janata Congress wrote on Twitter on Friday afternoon

Recalling his association with Ajit Jogi, senior Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh, Vivek Tankha said the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh was a ‘brave’ man. “He fought his adversity for 16 years exceptionally. Was brilliant former IAS officer. Created his political space in a short time. As CM his achievements were many, a family friend for us. I was his lawyer for many years," Tankha wrote on Twitter on Friday evening.

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