Modi's Cabinet: Why Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh has reason to smile

Narendra Modi included Vishnu Dev Sai as the solitary representative from Chhattisgarh in his government and gave chief minister Dr Raman Singh more than one reason to smile.

Parivesh Mishra May 28, 2014 10:28:02 IST
Modi's Cabinet: Why Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh has reason to smile

Raigarh: Narendra Modi included Vishnu Dev Sai as the solitary representative from Chhattisgarh in his government and gave chief minister Dr Raman Singh more than one reason to smile.

Sai‘s selection ruined chances of Ramesh Bais, the parliamentarian from Raipur, of making it into the list. Into his seventh term in Lok Sabha - sixth in a row - Bais had a stint in the Atal Behari Vajpayee ministry as a minister of state between 1998 and 2004. His name had figured on every list that was in circulation before Sai got a call from Narendra Modi on the D-day. Bais' presence at the centre would have left Raman a bit uncomfortable.

Bais was already a minister when Raman joined Vajpayee's cabinet in 1999. That was the time when the party’s priority was to groom leadership to take over when the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. In the first three years, the BJP was destined to be in the opposition as the Congress had brought a majority as a parting gift from the parent state. The BJP needed a leader, to begin with, to rejuvenate the state unit of the organization. Ramesh Bais was offered the job but he dithered. His supporters consider it to be his biggest error of judgment in life.

The party won the elections of 2003. A leader had to be chosen again – this time to lead the government. Bais made no attempt to hide his claims to the post of the chief minister which ultimately went to Raman Singh and placed Bais, in public perception at least, in a perpetual angry state.

Modis Cabinet Why Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh has reason to smile

Raman Singh in this file photo. PTI

Considered close to Sushma Swaraj, Bais, not a fan of Dale Carnegie (of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame), has not always been hesitant in making things difficult for Raman. In 2013, when the state government was being cornered by the opposition on various issues, Ramesh Bais was vocal in his criticism and accusations. One of these related to the allocation of some coal blocks, and by default, led to the implication of some business families of Nagpur and gave reasons to the Congress to train its guns on Nitin Gadkari. Gadkari was the party chief then and was to quit for soon after.

The selection of Vishnu Sai also spoilt chances of another tribal hopeful Nand Kumar Sai, a Rajya Sabha member. Arguably the tallest tribal leader in the state, this Sai also has been an MP from Raigarh and he too has been a president of the state unit of the BJP. More importantly, he was the leader of the opposition between 2000 and 2003. He didn’t see any reason why a tribal – and by default he - should not have been made the chief minister when the party came to power for the first time after defeating Ajit Jogi who claimed to be a tribal too. He too moved into a perpetually angry state.

Nand Kumar Sai, who comes from a village in Jashpur district, had managed to burn the bridges with Dilip Singh Ju Deo, the scion of the Jashpur Royal family and a BJP stalwart. This resulted in the political externment of the former from the area which had earlier elected him to Lok sabha. Dilip Singh has died since and Raman Singh is focusing on grooming the younger generation of the Ju Deo family. Modi, by design or accident, averted any possible complications in Raman’s plan of strengthening the party’s roots in Jashpur area with the help of the family with whom Sai has not bothered to amend relations yet.

The low profile fourth-time winner from Raigarh seat, Vishnu Sai is being projected as the preferred tribal face of the party in the state. He was the president of the state unit of the BJP when the party won 10 seats for the second time in 2009. Wins in tribal areas had proved a big factor in the overall performance of the BJP. The assembly elections of late 2013 saw the party losing these very seats to the Congress in areas like Bastar, Sarguja, Kanker and Korba. No wonder almost all the pre-poll surveys predicted an improvement in the Congress tally which had remained at one in all the elections since the creation of the state in 2000.

Coming just four months before the crucial general elections, the assembly results gave the BJP serious reasons to worry about and an opportunity to correct the course. Among many other measures taken, the most visible was to bring back the mascot that had proved lucky earlier. Sai was appointed the party chief again in January this year. And it worked, yet again. The party got the tribal votes back. Seats like Sarguja where the Congress had won seven out of eight assembly segments only four months back with an overall lead of over a lakh votes, the BJP won with a margin of nearly one-and-a-half lakh votes. A Modi meeting in Sarguja during the assembly elections didn’t work for the BJP. A Sonia Gandhi meeting didn’t work for the Congress either – during the latest elections.

Raman is likely to remain in the smiling mode – till the expansion of the cabinet for sure.

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