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Chhattisgarh: It's direct clash between Raman and Jogi

November 20, 2008 13:35 IST

Move over, national political stalwarts. The battle for the hustings in this tribal-dominated state is virtually centered around BJP chief minister Raman Singh and Congress leader and former chief minister Ajit Jogi.

A look at BJP posters, advertisements and other campaign material leaves little doubt that the saffron party is trying to retain Chhattisgarh by showcasing the achievements and positive image of Singh.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee manage only a rare appearance on some of the posters.

The issues being raised in the assembly elections are also local in nature as polling for the second phase is held today.

Though Congress has not declared its chief ministerial candidate, Ajit Jogi seems to be the front-runner for the post and he looms large in the Congress political campaign.

Though both have good backgrounds, with Jogi being a former IAS officer and Raman Singh a former Ayurvedic doctor, they possess completely contrasting personalities.

"Raman Singh is very docile and soft-spoken," says Santosh Sharma, resident of Rajnandgaon, from where Raman is contesting assembly polls.

Even Congressmen try not to target him personally and concede that Raman Singh is a nice man. They are wary of what is being termed "The Raman Effect" here.

"Other than their chief minister what does the BJP have to show for the last five years? Raman Singh is honest but his ministers have been corrupt," Congress national general secretary B K Hariprasad claimed.

Eager to cash in on Singh's positive image, BJP spin doctors have started calling him "Atal Bihari Vajpayee of Chhattisgarh" and "Chaur wale Baba" (the holy man who gives us rice). Singh won the second title after launching his Rs 2 per kg rice scheme for BPL families.

"Raman is a very nice man. There are no two ways about it. But he is too soft to be in politics," said Geeta Devi  Singh, Congress candidate from Dongargaon, the seat Singh represented in the outgoing assembly.

Jogi, on the other hand, has some very staunch followers while there are others who say he can use his own ways to get his work done.

 "Ajit Jogi has a son of the soil image here. So whoever contests from his family will have an edge over other candidates," claims a businessman at Pindrabazaar, in Marwahi.

"Unlike Raman, who changed his constituency thrice, Jogi contested the assembly elections only from Marwahi, which shows his commitment to the seat," Sant Kumar, a resident of Marwahi, said.

 His detractors, however, allege that his son Amit Jogi is involved in a criminal case.In the 2003 assembly elections, BJP had made Jogi's alleged strong arm tactics as one of the main poll planks.

Senior Congress leaders like Motilal Vora and Vidyacharan Shukla were quick to explain Jogi's frequently used term "my government" in poll meetings as "Congress government".

Confined to his wheel chair after a near-fatal accident in April 2004, Jogi has addressed close to five dozen political meetings till now.

The BJP has mainly concentrated on the work done during the Raman Singh government and skipped the controversial issues, which are part of the national agenda of the party.

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