C’garh LS polls; In Raman Singh’s stronghold Rajnandgaon, Baghel finds ‘safe seat’

It is part of the strategy by Congress to use the heft of its senior leaders by fielding them in the LS polls to put up a strong fight against the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh

Raipur: Congress has sprung a surprise by fielding senior party leader and former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel in Rajnandgaon, considered stronghold of BJP veteran and former chief minister Dr Raman Singh, to wrest the Lok Sabha seat from BJP in the upcoming polls.

Mr Baghel was among the six party nominees who figured in the first list of candidates released by Congress for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls in Chhattisgarh on Friday.

It is part of the strategy by Congress to use the heft of its senior leaders by fielding them in the LS polls to put up a strong fight against the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh.

“Everyone was expecting the Congress to field him in Durg LS constituency, his home seat, in the polls. But, the party’s decision to make him a candidate for Rajnandgaon LS seat, considered a bastion of Dr Singh who is now speaker of Chhattisgarh Assembly, has taken us by surprise”, a senior Congress functionary told this newspaper on Saturday.

Sources said that Rajnandgaon is seen as a ‘safe seat’ for Mr Baghel as compared to Durg, if the results of the November Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh are taken into account.

Congress won six out of eight Assembly seats under Rajnandgaon LS constituency in the recently held polls. However, the party could win only one out of eight Assembly seats falling under Durg LS constituency in the elections.

Mr Baghel retained Patan, the only Assembly seat bagged by Congress out of seven seats under Durg LS constituency, in the November elections.

“That is the reason why Rajnandgaon LS constituency is considered a safer seat than Durg for Mr Baghel”, the Congress leader said.

Besides, Congress feared that Kurmi community votes in Durg may be divided between Mr Baghel and the BJP candidate from the seat Vijay Baghel, the sitting MP, which may work to the disadvantage of the former chief minister in the polls.

The former chief minister and BJP candidate from Durg Mr Baghel, who is nephew of the former, hailed from Kurmi community.

The Sahu community which is a dominating population in Durg has been found to have shifted to BJP in the November Assembly polls.

Kurmis form a sizable population in Rajnandgaon and the factor may work to the advantage of Mr Baghel since BJP has retained sitting MP Santosh Pandey, a Brahmin, in the seat, Congress leaders say.

Apart from Mr Baghel, the other five candidates declared by the Congress on Friday are former state home minister Tamradhwaj Sahu from Mahasamund, former urban affairs minister Shiv Kumar Daharia from Janjgir Champa, Jyotna Mahant, the sitting MP and wife of Leader of Opposition Charandas Mahant from Korba, former MLA Vikas Upadhyay from Raipur and Rajendra Sahu, a new face, from Durg.

BJP had bagged nine out of 11 LS constituencies in Chhattisgarh in the last polls, leaving the remaining two seats to Congress.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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