Congress leadership divided in state, Jogi-BSP will hurt them more: Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh
Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh said there is no anti-incumbency in the state.Updated: Nov 20, 2018 11:29 IST
Raman Singh, 66, is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) longest-serving chief minister, and is leading the party’s bid to retain power in Chhattisgarh. On a campaign tour across the state, Singh spoke to Kumar Uttam last week about anti-incumbency against his government, the impact of Ajit Jogi’s alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the challenge from Congress. Edited excerpts:
This is third election that you are facing as chief minister. How is the challenge different as compared to the previous polls?
Every election is a challenge, and each election is different. Over the last 15 years, we have tirelessly worked for the welfare of the people and voters have seen our performance. We hope they will stand by us. The kind of response we have received during the election campaign has taken the pressure off us.
You have been CM for 15 years. Is there anti-incumbency against you?
Anti-incumbency works against a government that fails to live up to the expectation of people. If you compare what Chhattisgarh was 15 years back and where it stands now, you will realise that there is a positive mood for the BJP. There is no anti-incumbency.
Have you been able to drop enough sitting MLAs and ministers to minimise the impact of anti-incumbency?
We changed a lot of candidates in the previous election, but we could not get the kind of response we expected. This time, we have been more careful about candidate selection and have made only those changes that we felt were required. We are hoping for a positive result.
You won nine out of 10 seats reserved for SC in the last election. Satnam sect leader Baldas fielded independent candidates then, but he’s joined Congress now. How will that hurt you?
He has a limited appeal, and he will not have much impact. What people are missing is that former CM Ajit Jogi, who also has considerable influence among Satnami voters, is also in the fray. He has an alliance with the BSP and is eating into the Congress’s vote share.
But he has fielded some disgruntled BJP leaders as well. Will it hurt the BJP’s prospects?
The BSP took a little over 4% votes in the 2013 elections. We expect that the Jogi-BSP alliance will pocket 5-6% votes this time. Yes, to be honest, we know he will hurt the BJP in some assembly seats. But the nature of their support base makes us conclude that he will hurt the Congress more than the BJP.
The Congress won 18 out of 29 reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes in the previous election. How will you deal with that?
There was sympathy for the Congress after its top leadership was killed in a Maoist attack in Jhiram valley in Bastar months before the election. The Congress won eight out of 12 seats in the Bastar region. There is no such factor this time. Moreover, we have done a lot for the welfare of the tribal population in the last five years. I hope the result will be different this time.
How do you rate your government over the last 15 years? What has been your single-biggest achievement and what remains your challenge?
We managed to deliver good governance. Several pro-poor schemes were launched. The PDS system of Chhattisgarh is applauded everywhere. It is our biggest achievement. Maoists have been restricted to a few districts, but it remains a challenge.
The Congress seems to have regrouped. Do you see the main opposition party as a more challenging force this time?
This unity in the Congress is cosmetic. Their leadership remains divided. There have been so many reports about a fight between the Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh. There are many factions, and several chief ministerial aspirants. You are talking about regrouping, but the divide is so deep that their leaders do not even sit together in a helicopter. The BJP has a well-oiled organisational structure in Chhattisgarh, the leadership of a charismatic leader like Narendra Modi, and unity among its leaders. The Congress is no match for the BJP.
How many seats is the BJP winning in this election?
We won 49 seats last time. We will be above 50 in this election. We will win more seats than last time.
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