Why 2018 Assembly polls will be Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh's toughest yet

Rahul Noronha
Rahul NoronhaDec 16, 2017 | 11:26

Why 2018 Assembly polls will be Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh's toughest yet

This week Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh completed 14 years in office. He continues to be the longest-serving BJP CM in the country, a record previously held by PM Narendra Modi.

Both his opponents and admirers in politics consider Raman Singh very lucky. Raman Singh's rise within the BJP was rapid. Though his entry in politics was modest, as a councillor in his local urban body, he was elected MLA in undivided Madhya Pradesh for the first time in 1990 and then in 1993. He lost a Vidhan Sabha election but was elected MP from Rajnandgaon in 1999.


He was appointed a junior minister at the Centre by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in recognition for being a giant killer, as he had defeated Congress’ Motilal Vora. Raman Singh was hand picked by LK Advani to head the Chhattisgarh campaign in 2003 — an election in which the BJP did not fancy its chances against the formidable Ajit Jogi. Raman Singh delivered the state for the BJP by a slender vote share difference. Since then he has won the 2008 and 2013 assembly elections for the BJP with slender 1.70 per cent and 0.75 per cent vote share difference margins.

The assembly elections slated for November 2018 will be Raman Singh’s toughest yet. The reasons are simple: for one, he would be riding on a three-term incumbency; two, it is not clear as yet whose votes former CM Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) would eat into. While it is expected that Jogi’s party will damage the Congress, since he is originally from the Congress, in 2013 the BJP had won 9 out of the 10 seats in which the satnamis — the community that rallies behind Jogi — have influence.



Raman Singh has said that he is contesting the 2018 elections on the development plank. He cites the increase in power generation from 4,732 MW in 2003 to 22,764 MW this year and the increase in PMGSY network from 1,072 kms in 2003 to 22,750 kms this year as achievements.

While the stated pitch remains development, the veteran of political battles that he is, Raman Singh realises he will have to deliver individually and to specific communities to win in 2018. He is targeting the 29 tribal seats in the state where the BJP didn’t do too well last time.

In the 12 seats in the Bastar region, the BJP won only four. Bonus distribution of tendu leaf plucking is being given out to woo the tribal electorate besides extension of the work of RSS affiliates in tribal areas. He has doled out smartphones earlier this year and rice at Rs 1 per kg previously. Bonus on paddy procurement has been ordered and is being seen as the game changer in the next polls. He is confident that the BJP’s vote share and seats will increase this time.

In public perception, between the political class and the bureaucracy, it is the latter that rules the roost in Chhattisgarh. The CM’s office is perhaps one of the most powerful CMOs that go in the country. Political leaders are marginalised with ministers often seen hanging attending government functions in far-flung areas. They often get it and are happy. Also, that’s the most they get.


Most senior IAS officers get post-retirement sinecures in Chhattisgarh and are happy with the present dispensation that goes out of its way to give in to their demands. It is said in Chhattisgarh that Raman Singh finds it difficult to say no to people for what they seek from him. It’s a good trait for a politician to have. He will be asking people for their votes. Will they return the favour?

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: December 16, 2017 | 11:26
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