BJP’s first list of nominations seeks to win an uncle-nephew electoral battle in Chhattisgarh

BJP wants to corner CM Bhupesh Baghel by fielding sitting Durg MP and former Congress leader Vijay Baghel from Patan in Durg

Updated - October 12, 2023 12:34 pm IST

Published - August 18, 2023 05:32 am IST - RAIPUR

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel. | Photo Credit: PTI

In Chhattisgarh, the highlight of the BJP’s first list of nominations for the forthcoming State Assembly elections is its attempt to corner Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel by fielding sitting Durg MP and former Congress leader Vijay Baghel from Patan in Durg, which the CM represents in the current Assembly.

Sources within the BJP said the party believes that fielding Mr. Vijay Baghel is more suitable from a caste calculation point of view, a factor that can make the contest closer and compel the Chief Minister to spend more time in his own home turf on campaigning.

The two have a 1-2 scoreline in Assembly elections. Mr. Vijay Baghel defeated Mr. Bhupesh Baghel in the 2008 Assembly election but lost to him in 2013.

Mr. Vijay Baghel, who is the Chief Minister’s nephew (his great-grandfather and Mr. Bhupesh Baghel’s grandfather were brothers), was denied a ticket by the BJP in the 2018 Assembly polls. In that election, Mr. Bhupesh Baghel, as the Congress candidate, defeated the BJP’s Motilal Sahu. However, in the Lok Sabha elections that followed, Mr. Vijay Baghel, contesting on a BJP ticket, emerged victorious from Durg, and secured a sizeable lead in the Patan Assembly segment (of the Durg Lok Sabha seat) as well.

The names announced on Thursday include 10 Schedule Tribe (ST) candidates and one Scheduled Caste (SC) candidate out of the 29 and 10 reserved seats for STs and SCs, respectively. Among the remaining, there are six Other Backward Classes (OBC) candidates, and five women.

Among the ST candidates is Ramvichar Netam, a former Rajya Sabha member and a former Home Minister of the State. He has been fielded from Ramanujganj, a constituency he has represented in the past.

One of the key names to be dropped from the list is Ram Sewak Paikra (61), another former Home Minister with three decades of experience in electoral politics behind him. Mr. Paikra, who lost in the previous elections, has been replaced by Shakuntala Singh Porthe.

Another notable absentee on the list is O.P. Choudhary, a former bureaucrat who made an unsuccessful electoral debut in 2018 from the Kharsia Assembly seat. It is learnt that Mr. Choudhary, who has gained clout within the BJP’s local organisation in the past half-a-decade, may be fielded from Raigarh.

In Marwahi, the stronghold of late Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, the BJP has fielded Pranav Kumar Marpachhi. In the by-election following Jogi’s death in 2020, Congress’ Krishna Dhruw defeated the BJP’s candidate by 38,197 votes.

In the list which features many new faces, including at least one import each from the Congress and the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh Jogi (JCCJ), the BJP has also tried to send a message to grassroots workers by fielding a sarpanch and several zila parishad members.

BJP State President Arun Sao said that the list showed the party was serious in its intention of winning the elections.

“...Bhupesh Baghel-led government has turned Chhattisgarh into a hub of crime and corruption. It cheated and looted all sections of the State and the development work is at a standstill. The people of Chhattisgarh have understood that the future of the State is safe in the hands of the BJP... Definitely, the lotus will bloom in Chhattisgarh in November,” Mr. Sao told journalists.

Reacting to the BJP’s move, Mr. Bhupesh Baghel said he had learnt that a list had been issued but “there was nothing khaas (special) in it”.

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