NATIONAL

Raman Singh likely to be Chhattisgarh CM

NEW DELHI DEC. 4. The Bharatiya Janata Party's Chhattisgarh unit president, Raman Singh, is likely to become Chief Minister of the State after he is elected the party's legislative party leader, possibly tomorrow afternoon.

While the party had already declared its chief ministerial candidates for Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — Uma Bharti and Vasundhara Raje — it made no formal announcement in relation to Chhattisgarh. Party sources indicated that at a meeting at the Prime Minister's residence today, the leadership had come to the conclusion that Mr. Singh would be the best choice.

The party president, Venkaiah Naidu, will go to Raipur to convey to the newly-elected legislators the leadership's preference and also to ascertain their views. He has been authorised by the Parliamentary Board that met today to take a decision on the spot.

The former Union Minister, Dilip Singh Judev, is out of the race. He has declared that he will not accept any position till the allegation of bribe-taking against him is cleared and the leadership also felt it would not be prudent to make him Chief Minister pending the CBI inquiry.

The Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, Nand Kumar Sai, has been defeated in Marwahi and is out of the reckoning. The race for the top post in the State narrowed down to Mr. Raman Singh and the Union Minister of State and the MP from Raipur, Ramesh Bais. The party leaders felt that Mr. Singh would prove to be the better administrator, although, as the general secretary, Pramod Mahajan said: "There is no bar in the selection process for a person other than an MLA." In short, Mr. Bais could also be considered if that was the view of the legislators.

Briefing reporters after the meeting of the party's Parliamentary Board, Mr. Mahajan said the party won a large number of seats from the tribal belts in the State, and since the party did not have a tribal leader, it preferred not to project a Chief Minister. But in the final selection of the Chief Minister, caste will not be a factor.

The party general secretary for organisation, Sanjay Joshi, is already in Raipur and the Union Minister for Agriculture, Rajnath Singh, who was the minister in-charge of the campaign there, has also been asked to be present when the legislative party leader is elected.

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