After successfully ruling the state for 14 years without raising any emotive issue, unleashing fear or indulging in any ‘Jumla’, like other leaders of BJP-ruled states, is Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh really fumbling in this election year? During the 14 years of his three consecutive tenures from December 2003, Raman Singh has successfully managed the affairs of the insurgency-hit state that had witnessed the worst-ever Maoist attack that eliminated the state’s top Congress leaders. Despite such crucial issues, Singh took the state to new heights with regard to development and overall welfare of the poor and weaker sections and has made a giant leap in infrastructure too. As a sober, polite and dependable politician, he won the hearts of masses what top BJP leaders of other states could not do. Today, there is no state BJP leader who can match his stature. He earned the state-wide acceptability of connecting the masses with ease. Except one or two, all others are not even satraps of their respective regions.
Despite all these strengths, the state BJP govern ment’s latest four actions have obviously antagonized the masses at large a thing which has never happened during the last four years of Raman Singh rule, that too in the election year when the chief minister is looking forward for a fourth consecutive win and head the government again.
Raman Singh, during the last 14 years, has always been considered as a leader who tries to work out a compromise instead of using force. But for the first time, his government cracked down the agitating ‘Shiksha Karmis’, who constitute a sizable number of 1.80 lakh, as they were demanding merger and regularisation of their services as promised by the BJP during the previous elections.
Then, his government, antagonizing the masses at large, has thwarted the farmers’ agitation by imposing prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC in a dozen districts and picking up farmers and their leaders from their houses.
During his entire tenure, Singh had taken all decisions with a proper application of mind, ensuring that there were no major controversies. On the contrary, this election year, the government has taken two major decisions that have annoyed the very powerful tribal community and the elected representatives of gram panchayats, who are directly connected with the voters at the grass root level. Both the decisions boomeranged and the state government suddenly rolled back the decision to wriggle out of the situation.
The first one has been the Raman government pushing a controversial bill in the Vidhan Sabha to amend the Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code to insert a clause that land owned by the farmers in scheduled areas means tribal land can be purchased with the consent of its owners. Though the government has tried to water down its implications, tribal communities across the state realized the danger of losing their land to non-tribal communities and industrial lobby. As the tribal communities protest, the government has announced withdrawal of the new law. Such a hasty roll back has happened for the first time during the last 14 years. The politically incorrect decision has annoyed the tribal communities that constitute 33 percent of the state population.
The second one had all potential to irritate the village level influencers the sarpanch and panchs of gram panchayats. The state government had asked all village panchayats to return 70 percent of the funds received by gram panchayats through the 14th finance commission for setting up mobile towers for improving connectivity. Taking away funds provided to gram panchayats for providing basic amenities in their respective areas and diverting it for other purposes was termed as grossly illegal and even the BJP leaders had told the state chief secretary that it would lead to unnecessary litigations. Panchayat-level elected representatives rose in protest against the BJP government, forcing it for a hasty retreat and return the amount to the village panchayats.
But, the question is, whether the Raman Singh government is really fumbling in the election year? Or it’s an error of judgement on the part of the bureaucracy? Or it has anything to do with the BJP’s internal politics?
Taking into consideration the fact that such mistakes had never happened in the past, with the same bureaucracy and advisors around, the needle of suspicion is towards the second possibility of the political angle. Some BJP insiders say chief minister Raman Singh began “fumbling” if he is mishandling at all after the BJP national organisation leaders began dropping hints that the state leadership issue would remain open and the party leadership would decide on it after the polls.
National general secretary of the party, Saroj Pandey, twice had ruffled her feathers by issuing statement that the BJP parliamentary board would decide on the state leadership. Considering her increasing clout and proximity with a couple of central leaders who matters in party affairs, party circles claimed, that the incumbent state leadership smelt a rat. Subsequent hasty actions of the government give rise to speculation that the central leadership is yet to sound the present incombent in clear terms about continuation for a fourth consecutive term.
It was under such a scenario that former chief minister Ajit Jogi, who floated a new regional party, made a surprise announcement that he would contest against chief minister Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon, his home constituency. While Ajit Jogi may have his own reasons for contesting against the incumbent chief minister, political analysts point out that this announcement has become a saving grace for Singh to counter any attempt for a leadership change as such an attempt would be seen politically as the BJP running away or conceding defeat much before the elections.
Ahead of the polls, it seems, everyone in Chhattisgarh BJP is playing mind games!