BJP looks beyond ex-CM to pick LoP in Chhattisgarh
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BJP looks beyond ex-CM to pick LoP in Chhattisgarh

First, BJP strategists believe that a shift of backward communities towards the Congress led to its crushing defeat in Chhattisgarh.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2018 08:35 IST
Kumar Uttam & Ritesh Mishra
Kumar Uttam & Ritesh Mishra
New Delhi/Raipur
BJP,LoP,chief minister
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership is weighing its options and looking beyond former chief minister Raman Singh to pick the leader of the opposition in Chhattisgarh.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership is weighing its options and looking beyond former chief minister Raman Singh to pick the leader of the opposition in Chhattisgarh, where it lost power to the Congress in recent assembly elections, three people familiar with discussion on the matter said.

“Raman Singh is not ruled out at this stage, but there are reasons to look beyond him this time,” one of the three people said on condition of anonymity.

First, BJP strategists believe that a shift of backward communities towards the Congress led to its crushing defeat in Chhattisgarh. They believe the party needs urgently to reach out to this social group because the parliamentary election is just a few months away.

Other Backward Classes (OBCs) make up about 46% of the state’s population. If this sense influences the selection of the leader of BJP’s legislature party in Chhattisgarh, then Singh, an upper caste Thakur , might have to make way for a leader from the OBCs. “In order to counter the en masse shift of OBC votes to Congress , the BJP will prefer that the leader of opposition should be from OBC,” Raipur-based political commentator Ashok Tomar said.

The BJP ruled Chhattisgarh for 15 years, but the Congress stormed to power with a threefourths majority in the recent election to the 90-member assembly. A close aide to Raman Singh claimed he, too, was not inclined to take the leader of the opposition’s post in the state assembly and would prefer to return to national politics. Singh was a junior minister for commerce and industry in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government between 1999 and 2003, before becoming the chief minister. He got elected to the Lok Sabha from the Rajnandgaon parliamentary seat in 1999. Currently, Singh’s son, Abhishek Singh, represents Rajnandgaon in the Lok Sabha. “The former chief minister is likely to be the BJP candidate from Rajnandgaon in 2019.

If he has to contest the parliamentary election, he will have to leave the LoP’s position for some other leader,” a second BJP leader said. Singh met BJP chief Amit Shah in New Delhi on December 27 to discuss appointment of the leader of the opposition and his role. Singh remains in contention as he is BJP’s longest serving chief minister and the most prominent face of the party in the tribal-dominated state. That the party was reduced to just 15 seats in 90-member assembly under his leadership is working against Singh. A BJP leader in Chhattisgarh claimed former ministers Ajay Chandrakar and Braj Mohan Agrawal and state BJP president Dharam Lal Kaushik were in contention for the leader of the opposition’s job, in case the party asks Singh to step aside.

Kaushik and Chandrakar both belong to OBC communities and are considered to be close to Singh. Agrawal is a 7-term legislator, and is a known rival of the former chief minister.

First Published: Dec 30, 2018 08:21 IST