A high-powered committee constituted by the Chhattisgarh government under instructions from the high court, government officials said, has found that the state’s first chief minister, Ajit Jogi, does not qualify as a Scheduled Tribe member. The government has not made public the report on one of the issues that dominate Chhattisgarh’s politics. Several government officials, however, said the report concludes that Jogi is not a Kawar as he claims. The Jogis themselves have confirmed that they have received a copy of the report and that they will challenge it in court.
The question of Jogi’s tribal status has been controversial ever since the state’s inception, with his political rivals moving court to allege that his family has been contesting reserved seats based on forged documents. The high-powered committee was formed after two separate petitions in the high court.
Following the findings, the Congress has led delegations to both the governor and Chief Minister Raman Singh, asking for an FIR to be lodged against Jogi, and for his tribe certificate to be cancelled. The order may also have direct political ramifications as Ajit Jogi’s son Amit is currently MLA from Marwahi, a reserved seat.
Amit Jogi told The Indian Express said that they would challenge the report in the high court. He said the committee did not follow the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, and that it was a “chief minister-powered committee”.
“In the case that set a precedent for such a committee, the Supreme Court had mandated a seven-member committee,” Amit Jogi said. “In this committee, four people were the same person holding different posts. This is a clear violation and shows the intent of the government. A vigilance team that went to my ancestral village returned with the finding that we are tribals, but the high-powered committee overruled this. We will challenge this. If we are not tribals, then the committee must answer, who are we? How is it that this was never raised when my father served as an IAS officer?”
Just over a year ago, Ajit Jogi and his son broke away from the Congress to form the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress, which has thus far based its politics on being a regional force, and at the centre of that is the Jogi identity. The Congress has attacked both Jogis for allegedly falsifying their identities for political gain, simultaneously alleging that the Chief Minister is shielding them. Several BJP leaders have asked Jogi to apologise, and for his tribe certificate to be revoked.