Chhattisgarh polls: Raman Singh faces Vajpayee’s niece on home ground2 min read . Updated: 24 Oct 2018, 05:22 PM IST
Congress’ Karuna Shukla, niece of Atal Behari Vajpayee, has filed her nomination against Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon constituency
Mumbai: Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, who is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s longest serving chief minister of any state, on October 23 filed his nomination from the Rajnandgaon constituency, which goes to polls on November 12 in the first phase of assembly elections in Chhattisgarh. His opponent Karuna Shukla of Congress party also filed her nomination. Shukla is the niece of BJP icon and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who died in August. Asked to comment on his opponent’s relation to the BJP patriarch, Singh said the entire BJP campaign in Chhattisgarh was dedicated to the legacy of Vajpayee, who had created the state in November 2000 along with Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.
Singh, 66, is seeking a record fourth term in office for himself and for the BJP in this crucial state that has been a bastion for the party since 2003. The BJP stalwart, who was the minister of state for commerce and industry in the Vajpayee cabinet from 1999 to 2003 and a Lok Sabha MP from Rajnandgaon, filed his nomination with all pomp and pageantry. Hindutva icon and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was by his side when Singh filed his papers. Adityanath even addressed a public meeting in Rajnandgaon and exuded confidence about a big BJP victory. Referring to Shukla, Singh said her candidature made a telling statement about the Congress party’s inability to find local candidates.
Shukla, 68, on the other hand, described herself as a serious challenger to Singh. Shukla was a legislator in the Madhya Pradesh assembly much before Chhattisgarh was carved out. She was also elected to the Lok Sabha from the Jangir constituency (renamed Janjgir-Champa in 2009) in Chhattisgarh in 2004 on the BJP ticket. She, however, left the BJP in 2013 and joined the Congress in 2014, three months before Narendra Modi led the BJP to a landslide victory.
The Rajnandgaon constituency, which is Singh’s hometown, has been a happy hunting ground for the chief minister. He won the by-election from the Dongargaon constituency in Rajnandgaon district in 2004 after becoming chief minister in 2003. In 2003, he was already the MP from Rajnandgaon. Raman Singh contested from the Rajnandgaon assembly seat in 2008 and won it, defeating his Congress rival Uday Mudliyar by nearly 32,000 votes. In the 2003 assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Mudliyar had won the seat by just 40 votes. Singh retained the seat in 2013 defeating Mudliyar’s wife Alka by nearly 36,000 votes.
The 90 seats of the Chhattisgarh assembly go to polls in two phases. On November 12, 18 constituencies, including 12 affected by Maoist insurgency and 6 from Rajnandgaon district, go to polls in the first phase followed by 72 constituencies in phase two on November 20. Votes will be counted on December 11. A total 421 candidates are in the fray for the 18 seats in the first phase.