Ajit Jogi Dies at 74: Chhattisgarh's Once-Tallest Leader Dies After Vehement Struggle to Keep Political Legacy Alive

Aadil Ikram

Raipur, May 29: The once-tallest figure of Chhattisgarh politics left the world on Friday. After battling health-related ailments over the past two months, the 74-year-old former Chief Minister died. His death was triggered by the third cardiac arrest he suffered from in the last 19 days. On his death, son Amit Jogi said not only he, but entire 2.5 crore populace of Chhattisgarh have lost their "father". Ajit Jogi Dies at 74: Former Chhattisgarh CM No More, Confirms Son Amit Jogi.

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Jogi was associated with the Congress before floating his own party in 2016. When Chhattisgarh was formed in 2000, the Congress chose Ajit Jogi over some senior leaders and he served as the Chief Minister till 2003.

Born on April 29 in 1946, Ajit Jogi studied mechanical engineering at Maulana Azad College of Technology, Bhopal and clinched a gold medal in 1968. He briefly served a lecturer at the National Institute of Technology, Raipur, before he was selected for the Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Administrative Service (IAS). It was former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who convinced Jogi to quit the prestigious services and join the Congress party.

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In Congress, Jogi was mentored by Gandhi family loyalists, Digvijaya Singh and Arjun Singh. In 1986, Jogi entered the Rajya Sabha, where he remained for two terms till 1998. In 1998, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Raigarh and won. However, he suffered a defeat a year later from Shahdol. When Chhattisgarh was formed and the Congress bagged 48 out of the 90 seats in assembly polls, the grand old party decided to bet on Jogi.

During his tenure as Chief Minister, Jogi faced opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as within the Congress. His tribal identity was questioned and opponents alleged that since Jogi's grandfather had converted to Christianity, he wasn't even eligible to claim Scheduled Caste status. In 2003, Congress lost the state to the BJP. The grand old party, however, fielded him in the Lok Sabha elections next year.

Jogi, who was injured during the campaigning in a car accident which left him partially paralysed, defeated five-time winner Vidya Charan Shukla by nearly 1.2 lakh votes from Mahasamund. It was the only seat the Congress won in Chhattisgarh in that election, sealing Jogi's status as the tallest party leader in the state. The Congress projected Jogi once again in the 2008 assembly elections, but lost to the BJP under Dr Raman Singh.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Ajit Jogi was fielded from Mahasamund once again but faced a defeat by a BJP candidate by a few hundred votes. In 2016, he quit the Congress and formed Janata Congress Chhattisgarh. In 2018, Chhattisgarh polls, his party contested in an alliance with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The allowance, however, could manage to win only 7 seats out of the 90 seats in which JCC won 5 seats and BSP won 2 seats.

The poll results dashed Jogi's hopes of emerging as the kingmaker in the state. He tried to make the contest in the electorally bi-polar Chhattisgarh triangular, but could not succeed. The bureaucrat-turned-politician was fighting for his party's relevance in the state during his last days.