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Raipur (Rural)

Raipur Mayor and Chhattisgarh PWD Minister Tarun Chatterjee might have set a record of sorts in changing political parties, but he never had such a trying time in his political career.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2003 14:55 IST

He might have set a record of sorts in changing parties but Raipur Mayor and Chhattisgarh PWD Minister Tarun Chatterjee never had such a trying time in his political career.

Chatterjee, a shrewd and manoeuvring politician, who won four elections from three different parties comfortably, has been facing a stiff challenge from his own protégé Dinanath Sharma, now a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) nominee in Raipur (Rural) constituency.

Chatterjee, who won the last election - mayoral as well as Assembly elections - as a BJP candidate, led the defection of 12 BJP legislators, in the Congress after the creation of the State.

'Dal Badlu ko sabak sikhao' is the common slogan on the posters put up by the BJP candidate, Rajesh Munoot, and Sharma of NCP in all over the constituency.

Chatterjee, originally a Congressman, created a 'record' on defection. He was elected as MLA from Raipur (Rural) in 1980 as a Congress candidate. He left the Congress and joined Janata Dal, along with Vidya Charan Shukla in 1989 and fought the 1990 Assembly elections as a Janata Dal (JD) nominee. Later he left the Janata Dal and joined the BJP. He won the 1993 and 1998 state elections as a BJP candidate.

Subsequently his 'homecoming' to Congress could materialise only after he was offered a ministerial berth, along with the mayoral post in the new state.

He proudly said, "I have created history by changing parties. But I have done so to augment development of my constituency and voters." Tarun claims it is his commitment and not the party the drives people to vote to him.

He is probably a unique cabinet minister in the country, who has been holding the posts of mayor and a cabinet minister. But while enjoying both the posts, perhaps he forgot that it was difficult to please everybody on civic issues.

Being a cabinet minister he used to tour in the entire state, and could hardly attend the corporation office to solve day-to-day civic problems. This has led to an unprecedented resentment among voters of Raipur city.

Over 65 per cent voters in the constituency are under corporation limit and they have reasonable grudges against the mayor and the minister. When the Congress slogan - 'Congress ka haath, Garib ke saath' is visible in the entire state, anybody could find a slogan in his constituency, 'Janata ke laath, Tarun ke saath' to ridicule the minister. The slogan is so popular among voters that they pass it on to each other through SMS.

The BJP, which has been retaining the seat for the last four elections, decided to teach Chatterjee a lesson this time as he led the massive defection. The saffron organisation deliberately put a 'dummy' candidate, Munoot, its state youth wing president from Raipur (Rural) to give a safe passage to the NCP nominee, Sharma.

Sharma, who was a vocal leader of the Opposition in the Raipur Municipal Corporation, fought the Assembly elections against Chatterjee in 1998 as a Congress nominee. But Chetterjee defeated him with a handsome margin of over 15,500 votes.

Chatterjee is banking on slum dwellers and sizeable Oriya voters. The minister, who has been representing the constituency since three consecutive terms, has a considerable clout in those areas. On the other hand, Sharma is also quite popular in slums and is considered a meticulous organiser. The NCP rally, which was organised in the middle of this year in the city, was a grand success due to Sharma's organisational skill and propagation in slum areas in the city.

Though the Opposition is trying to corner the minister, many believe Chatterjee has the capability to change the equation at eleventh hour.