Chhattisgarh's inaugural chief minister, Ajit Jogi, dies at 74

Jogi enjoyed support among tribal and scheduled caste communities because of his easy accessibility.

Raipur: Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, wasknown in the political circles as someone who never gave up despite defeats, controversies and debilitating health issues.

Jogi, 74, who died at a private hospital here on Friday, was the quintessential politician who enjoyed support among tribal and scheduled caste communities because of his easy accessibility.

Born into a family of modest means in Pendra Road area of the then Bilaspur district, Jogi earned his engineering degree with a gold medal from a university in Ujjain in 1964.

After that he qualified first for the Indian Police Service and then the Indian Administrative Service.

After serving as collector for 12 years in various districts includingIndore and Raipur, Jogi resigned in 1986 and joined the Congress. The party sent him to the Rajya Sabha for two terms -- 1986-92 and 1992-98.

His rise in politics was meteoric, and he became chief minister of the newly formed Chhattisgarh state in November 2000, trumping rivals such as Congress stalwart Vidyacharan Shukla.

As chief minister, he was credited with setting up a state-of-the-art heart hospital in Raipur under the Public- Private-Partnership mode.

Jogi focused on improving health infrastructure in the tribal-dominated backward state and also laid the foundation stone of the new capital city near Abhanpur area of Raipur.

His ambitious 'Jogi Dabri scheme' to develop small water sources won praise, but was later marred by corruption allegations.

He was accused for splitting the opposition BJP after 12 of its MLAs joined the ruling Congress in 2002.

Jogi succeeded in sidelining Vidyacharan Shukla, who was seeking to become Rajya Sabha MP in 2002. Shukla then joined Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party.

In January 2003, Jogi faced a major political setback when he and his son Amit were named as suspects in the murder of Ram Avtar Jaggi, then treasurer of the state NCP. Amit Jogi was also arrested but was later acquitted by the trial court.

The BJP cashed in on the issue during the Assembly elections held towards the end of 2003, in which the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat.

After coming to power, the BJP released an audio tape which purportedly suggested that Jogi had tried to bribe BJP MLAs in an attempt to engineer a split.

Jogi was suspended from the party, but a few months later the Congress fielded him against Shukla who was contesting on BJP ticket in the 2004 Lok Sabha election from Mahasamund.

During the campaign, Jogi met with a road accident near Rajim and was permanently confined to a wheelchair. But he went on to defeat Shukla.

During the 15-year-long tenure of Raman Singh that followed 2003 assembly polls, Jogi was often dubbed as 'Team B' of the BJP for his perceived closeness to the ruling party.

When the Congress lost a third Assembly election in a row in 2013, knives were out for Jogi, and the party then made Bhupesh Baghel the state unit chief despite the fact that he did not share anybonhomie with Jogi.

Isolated, Jogi quit the Congress in 2016 after he and his son were accused of involvement in alleged fixing of the by-election to Antagarh Assembly seat in 2014.

After the scandal broke in 2015, Baghel expelled Amit Jogi from the Congress. In June 2016, Ajit Jogi formed the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J).

Ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, Jogi sprang a surprise by forming alliance with Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party. It was expected that the alliance will play the role of kingmaker.

But the Congress won a landslide by bagging 68 out of 90 seats. Jogi-Mayawati combine won only seven seats.

Ajit Jogi himself managed to win his traditional Marwahi seat, banking on his charisma.

Jogi's status as the member of a tribal community had been the subject of controversy since he entered politics. After he became chief minister, BJP leader Sant Kumar Netam had complained to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes that his claim of belonging to a Scheduled Tribe was based on forged documents.

With the Congress' return to power, he and his family members faced several fresh allegations with regard to Antagarh bypoll and the caste status issue.

Though sidelined in the state's politics, the four- time MLA never lost his sharp sense of humor, especially while targeting his opponents. His political legacy is now expected to be carried on by his son and JCC chief Amit Jogi.

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