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Ajit Jogi, Chhattisgarh’s first chief minister, passes away at 74

Ajit Jogi, Chhattisgarh’s first chief minister, passes away at 74

Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi (1946-2020), Chhattisgarh’s first chief minister and a prominent tribal leader, passed away today. He hit the headlines in national dailies in 2001 when, as Chhattisgarh chief minister, he opposed the sale of the public sector Balco to the Anil Agarwal-promoted Sterlite. Later, however, he got along well with Sterlite.

He graduated from Bhopal's Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (then known as Maulana Azad College of Technology) in 1968 as a mechanical engineer, winning the University Gold Medal. He never needed the reservation quota except while entering the engineering course.

Before qualifying for IAS, he was a lecturer in an engineering college in Raipur.

His stints as IAS officer were marked both by innovative ideas and controversies. Almost after each posting, he faced charges of irregularities. He served as district collector at Sidhi, Shahdol, Raipur and Indore. During his stint at Sidhi, he cultivated veteran Congressman Arjun Singh who mentored him for many years and guarded him against adversities.

The first case of financial impropriety was filed against him in 1980-81 when the Kodar dam was under construction during Jogi's stint as district collector in Raipur. He wriggled out without any damage. Arjun Singh happened to be the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh then. But the case dragged on till the next decade before he was exonerated.

As district collector in Indore in 1981-85, Ajit Jogi was accused of amassing wealth and there was a raid by the Lokayukta. Arjun Singh was alleged to have played an important role in getting Jogi a Rajya Sabha nomination and a reprieve from the probe. Then chief minister Motilal Vora was too much in awe of Arjun Singh to resist him.

He subsequently left the IAS for politics, and had a long stint in the Congress and a Member of Parliament before he rose to the helm in newly-carved out Chhattisgarh in 2000.

As chief minister of Chhattisgarh, a significant contribution was to secure the interests of migrant labor force. He brought legislation to help the labor force headed to states like Punjab and Haryana during paddy transplant season. He wanted the landlords to insure the workers and see that they lived some dignity.

Jogi was articulate, known for his command over English, Hindi, and Chhattisgarhi.

The Congress lost Chhattisgarh in 2003 to the BJP. In June 2007, Jogi and his son were arrested in connection with the murder of NCP treasurer Ram Avtar Jaggi, who was shot dead in June 2003. But, five years later, the CBI said Jogi could not be prosecuted under any law. The BJP then alleged the UPA government misused the CBI to protect Jogi.

Jogi's Scheduled Tribe status certificate, issued by a Pendra tehsildar in 1967, kept haunting him till recent times. The issue has remained unresolved. Jogi challenged the adversaries both in the Congress and the BJP who would not let him wriggle out.

In June 2016, Jogi quit the grand old party and launched the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh. It proved to be a non-starter, as the Congress won a massive victory in the 2018 state election.


(With agency inputs).