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There are no outsiders here

india Updated: Nov 20, 2008 01:41 IST
Pradeep Maitra
Pradeep Maitra
Hindustan Times
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Chhattisgarh, where polling ends on Thursday, is one state where, unlike Maharashtra, influx of 'outsiders' will never be an issue. Not only are outsiders welcomed without reserve, they are even prominent in its politics.

Some of the most important ministers in chief minister Raman Singh's government, Revenue Minister Brijmohan Agrawal, finance minister Amar Agarwal, and PWD minister of state Rajesh Munot are first generation settlers in the state. According to Tarachand Sahu, BJP MP from Durg, Munot came to the region only 20 years ago and started a printing press. So too Prem Prakash Pandey, speaker in the outgoing assembly, hails from Bihar.

While the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena fumes over the entry of outsiders into Mumbai, at least 40 candidates contesting the assembly polls in Chhattisgarh this time are Maharashtrians. The BJP, the Congress, and even smaller parties like the Republican Party of India and Lok Janshakti Party which are contesting polls here, have freely given them tickets.

"People who want to divide the country on regional lines should take a lesson from Chhattisgarh," said former film star and BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha while campaigning here .

During the run up to the poll, Sahu had launched a regular campaign against 'outsiders' in the state, claiming they had been given more tickets by the BJP than locals. He particularly targeted the Speaker, Pandey, opposing his renomination from the Bhilai seat. But his tirade failed to make any impact.

The opposition Congress, far from exploiting Sahu's charge against Pandey, put up a candidate against him Badruddin Qureshi, who also originally hailed from Bihar.

"Pandey has been depriving the locals of jobs," charged Sahu. "He has been bringing in hordes of people from his home state and giving them employment.

"This is just a frustrated person talking," responded Pandey.

Sahu has even set up a Chhatisgarh Swabhiman Manch to champion the cause of locals, but it has failed to draw support.

Chhattisgarh is a 'tribal' state, carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November 2000. The state has a 32 per cent tribal population and 39 of its 90 assembly seats are reserved for tribals.

Yet, unlike other tribal states, that are fiercely protective of their tribal identity, it is completely bereft of regional or xenophobic feelings.