Chhattisgarh BJP gets new president

New president of Chhattisgarh BJP Arun Sao.

New president of Chhattisgarh BJP Arun Sao. | Photo Credit: Photo courtesy: Twitter

With 14 months left for next year’s Assembly election in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday appointed Bilaspur Lok Sabha member Arun Sao as the new president of the party’s State unit.

Mr. Sao, 53, a first-time MP who hasn’t held any significant organisational post in the party so far, has replaced one of Chhattisgarh BJP’s tribal faces and three-time State unit president, Vishnu Deo Sai, whose latest tenure lasted for over two years.

Mr. Sao has extensive experience of working in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) student wing — the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — and the BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. His appointment was announced immediately after the party’s newly appointed general secretary, organisation (for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) Ajay Jamwal concluded his Chhattisgarh visit, prompting speculation of a change of guard.

“I am happy that the BJP has chosen an ordinary worker like me to lead the State unit ahead of the next year’s Assembly election. I will take everyone along and put in efforts to ensure that we return to power,” said Mr. Sao. He was congratulated by former Chief Minister Raman Singh and leader of the Opposition Dharamlal Kaushik.

Party sources said there was a buzz about a change of guard for a while as back-to-back bypoll losses had gone against Mr. Sai. “It was also discussed that in Madhya Pradesh the appointment of such a face who had cut his teeth in the ABVP [V.D. Sharma with an RSS background and little legislative experience before he became a first-time MP from Khajuraho] had worked well and the party wanted to repeat the experiment,” said a former BJP MLA.

Caste equations

Mr. Sao hails from the Sahu community, which is the largest constituent under the OBC umbrella with Kurmis being the second. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel of the Congress is from the Kurmi caste and the OBC votes ensured his victory in the last election.

Between them, the various OBCs (nearly 45%) and tribal (33%) communities comprise a lion’s share of the electorate in Chhattisgarh. The party president’s post has been held mostly by the representatives of these two communities.

This time, however, the BJP, which has 14 members in the Assembly, senses that the road to recovery will have to start from the rural areas in the plains where OBC voters are the deciding factor. This too played a role in Mr. Sao’s appointment, said a source close to the party. The elevation of a Sahu community member by the BJP may make consolidation of OBC votes more challenging for the Congress when it seeks a second term. There is also speculation that the BJP is looking to replace Mr. Dharamlal Kaushik, a Kurmi leader, with Ajay Chandrakar, another Kurmi MLA..

Pecking order

The move is also being perceived as something that pushes Raman Singh, the former three-time Chief Minister, further back in the party’s plans. In 15 years from 2003 to 2018, when Mr. Singh ruled, the organisational appointments, including that of the State unit president, had his imprint. This had reportedly miffed a section of the RSS before the 2018 elections. With Mr. Jamval and Mr. Sao’s appointment, a section of the party believes that the Sangh will drive the election strategy.

Congress takes a dig

State Congress communication wing chief Sushil Anand Shukla said the removal of the tribal leader (Mr. Sai) from the State BJP president’s post on ‘World Tribal Day’, being observed on Tuesday, reflects the “anti-adivasi thinking of the BJP”.

The Congress government in the State organised several programmes and made announcements to observe the day.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 1:56:03 am |