Rajnandgaon (Chhattisgarh): The Congress, out of power in Chhattisgarh since 2003, is ironically invoking the name of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vapayee to take on Chief Minister Raman Singh on his home turf Rajnandgaon, which goes to polls on Monday. Raman Singh, the longest serving Chief Minister of the BJP, is locked in a direct fight with his former mentor, Karuna Shukla, a niece of the late Vajpayee.
The 68-year-old Shukla, a former BJP Lok Sabha MP, ended her 32-year-long association with the BJP in 2014 and joined the Congress. The down-to-earth Shukla is known to have a clean image and has rejected the BJP’s repeated overtures in the recent past to bury the hatchet.
The Congress has deftly fielded her against the BJP’s most popular face in the state Raman Singh, to deny him a walkover. “Voters in Rajnandgaon are in a dilemma as they have great affection and regard for Raman Singh but Shukla is a simple and serious minded woman and, most importantly, she is seeking votes in the name of late Vajpayeeji, rather than the Congress or Rahul Gandhi,” says Tejindar Bhatia, who owns a grocery shop at Gurunanak Chowk in the heart of Rajnandgaon town.
A mobile telephone shop owner, Raju Sahu, however, feels that Raman Singh would win because of his “deep bonding and strong connect” over the years with voters while Shukla is a “parachute candidate” who had been air dropped by the Congress to spook the BJP.
The Congress camp is also encouraged by the huge turnout at a roadshow of Congress President Rahul Gandhi on November 9 in Rajnandgaon town. Sensing that there is a stiff fight at hand, BJP President Amit Shah staged a road show in Rajnandgaon town “You need to double the victory margin this time for Raman Singh. In 2013 he won by a little over 35,000 votes; this time the margin should be above 70000,” Shah told voters in the presence of Raman Singh.