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India's most controversial CM

October 23, 2003

I am not sure if we can do without you,' Sardar Patel once told his civil servants, 'but I am quite sure that you could carry on without us!' We often tend to bewail the fall in standards when it comes to politicians, but how about our bureaucrats? Is there anyone in the Central Secretariat who would perform as well as, say, V P Menon did when he was the Sardar's right-hand man in the States Ministry?

So what happens when one of the latter-day bureaucrats crosses the line and becomes a politician? In one way, he or she must be applauded; surely it is better to stand for election than to try and pull strings behind the scenes without public sanction? The second good thing about it is that such a politician is better equipped to understand the mechanics of governance. But then I look at the other side of the coin -- and I see Ajit Jogi.

The chief minister of Chhattisgarh was an IAS officer of 1968 vintage. Had he not joined politics he would now have been the chief secretary in some state or a full-blown secretary in the Government of India, perhaps even Cabinet Secretary. I have to say, however that he has displayed no particular talent for administration; he has, however, shown what amounts to sheer genius for getting himself into trouble!

For instance, Jogi made the headlines thanks to some wild accusations about the Union government's decision to sell its stake in Balco. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh claimed this amounted to selling out workers' interests since the new managers would begin by cutting jobs. There were dark hints of something fishy in the deal, enough to make the exasperated Divestment Minister Arun Shourie threaten to sue. Jogi has long since given up singing that old song
about Balco.

Had Shourie actually taken him to court, it would not be the first time that Jogi has been hauled up. While still a bureaucrat he was accused of falsifying his record, claiming Scheduled Tribe status to enter college and then the IAS through the reserved quota. Unfortunately, there was no verdict since Jogi resigned from the civil service, and the judge ruled the matter infructuous.

Later still, his son sought to follow in his footsteps and enter the civil service. The problem is that the young man is an American citizen by virtue of his birth, and is said to be living in India on a visa. How then could he appear in the UPSC examination claiming Indian citizenship? (India still does not have any system of dual citizenship.)

As chief minister, Jogi then claimed that forces in Delhi had put something called 'Operation Black Sea' into action to vilify him. Had he stopped there, Jogi might have found some people willing to believe him. But he went farther, waving a piece of paper supposedly bearing the signature of an officer in the Intelligence Bureau. This turned out to be false, and the Central Bureau of Investigation then began investigating the forgery. Interestingly, N C Padhi, the IB special director whose signature was forged, is a batchmate of Jogi.

Jogi also claims he received a special mission when he went to meet the ailing Kanshi Ram in hospital. He claims the Bahujan Samaj Party founder asked him to continue his mission to work for the depressed classes. This led an outraged Mayawati to denounce the story as a tissue of lies. Since Sonia Gandhi has been angling for Mayawati's support she will be less than pleased at this revelation from her chief minister.

The latest allegation against Ajit Jogi is that he tried to bribe members of the Nationalist Congress Party, the organisation led by Sharad Pawar, into rejoining the Congress (I). True to form, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh has dismissed this as just another attempt to blacken his name before the assembly election. At times it appears that every non-Congress party has nothing better to do than to spin tales about poor Jogi!

If Jogi's relations with other parties verges on the horrible his standing is no better with fellow Congressmen. He is not on speaking terms with the veteran V C Shukla, who is now said to be actively considering a tie-up with the Nationalist Congress Party. (Which might explain why Jogi attempted a pre-emptive strike against them.)

'Chhattisgarh' means 'the land of the 36 forts.' If Ajit Jogi goes on at this rate he will soon be the chief minister with 36 allegations against him!

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T V R Shenoy

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