It is not an easy constituency to please, that Rajnandgaon. Since 1990, no political party has won it for two successive terms. So when Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh announced that he would be contesting the assembly elections from here once again, eyebrows were raised.
The opposition Congress has decided to field Alka, wife of Udai Mudiliyar, who was killed in the Darbha Maoist massacre on May 25, and is hoping to cash in on the sympathy wave. But ‘doctor saab’ is not blinking.
After all, not for nothing has he been showering his bounty on Rajnandgaon.
In 2008, his highly subsidised rice scheme — at `3 a kg — not only helped the BJP win elections, it also earned him the title of ‘chawal wale baba’ among people here. Other than that, there have been a string of populist measures — a `21 crore astro-turf, an indoor basketball stadium, an agriculture and horticulture college and a promised sports university and medical college.
What is more, unlike his counterparts in other states, Singh visited his constituency once every month till 2012, and twice a month since January. People are used to the sight of the portly CM in his full-sleeved shirt and trousers, zipping in and out with his Z plus security.
“The frequent visits have brought him (Singh) closer to the people,” says academician Ankit Chouhan.
Others, however, point out that familiarity is one thing and efficiency is quite the other.
The roads are a mess, the ambitious drinking water scheme, Jal avardhan Yojana, is yet to start and the monthly ‘jandarshan’ or mass contact programme, which began with much fanfare, a complete flopshow.
“Majority of the development programmes are dogged by massive corruption and substandard work,” says city mayor Naresh Dakaliya. “If it drizzles, the famous basketball court turns into a swimming pool.”
The District Congress president Vinod Goswami points out that Singh could not get a single industry to set up shop here, even though he had represented Rajnandgaon as an MP earlier and the Central commerce and industry minister. “Now, in Raman raj, BJP corporators have become contractors,” Goswami told HT.