Dr Raman Singh, who has been ruling Chhattisgarh for a record 15 years in its 18-year history, feels he still has a lot to do in the state and Delhi is far away for him as of now.
Mr Singh said he is fully satisfied with his three terms as the chief minister and he has been getting a lot of love from the people of the state.
“As of now, I believe that ‘Dilli door hai’ (Delhi is far away). It’s a pleasure to work here in Chhattisgarh and there is a lot to work here,” Mr Singh told PTI in an interview.
He was replying to questions on what role does he see for himself in the next phase of his political career and whether it would include shifting to Delhi for a national-level stint.
There have been talks in some quarters that Singh and a few other senior BJP leaders from various states may be shifted to the Centre, though there has been no official word on this from the ruling party or its top leaders.
The 66-year-old BJP veteran, who was a practising ayurvedic doctor before taking the plunge into politics in 1980s, became Chhattisgarh’s chief minister in December 2003, after the saffron party snatched power from the Congress just about three years after the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
Before being sent to lead the BJP’s charge against the then ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh in 2003, Singh was serving as a union minister in the then NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Leading the BJP’s bid again to retain power in Chhattisgarh in the upcoming assembly elections, Singh said there is a “pro-incumbency” wave in the state on the basis of the work his government has done in the agriculture sector and the effective functioning of the public distribution system.
Opposition leaders have been talking about a strong anti-incumbency wave against Singh.
Confident of winning his fourth term as chief minister, Singh said the state polls might have some impact on the Lok Sabha election next year but it should not be seen as a referendum on the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Many political pundits have called the upcoming assembly polls in five states — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram — as semi-finals before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when Prime Minister Modi will make his bid for a second term with his BJP eyeing to project him as a nationwide mascot of the party.
The state elections have become more interesting with a direct fight between the ruling BJP and the Congress in at least three of these five states.
Among the five states, Chhattisgarh is the first to go to polls in a multi-phase voting. The voting will take place for a total of 18 seats of Chhattisgarh assembly in the first phase on November 12, including for Mr Singh’s own Rajnandgaon constituency, while the remaining 72 seats in the state will go to polls in the second phase on November 20.
The counting for all 90 seats will take place on December 11, along with the same for the four other states — neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Mizoram. Voting will take place in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram on November 28; and in Rajasthan and Telangana on December 7.
Chhattisgarh itself has over 1.85 crore registered voters, while it is over 5 crore in Madhya Pradesh and about 4.75 crore in Rajasthan. Mizoram has more than 7.6 lakh voters while the same for Telangana is about 2.6 crore. The number of assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh is 230, in Rajasthan 200, Telangana 119 and in Mizoram 40.
In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the ruling BJP is pitted directly against the Congress, even as the presence of the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party’s alliance with former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi’s party has made the contest more interesting in that state. Besides, the Congress’s plan to forge a broad-based anti-BJP alliance has failed to fructify fully in all poll-bound states.
PM Modi got a thumping majority in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, while Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were among the states where the BJP won big.
The chief minister said one of his focus areas in the next term would be to establish complete peace in the Naxal-hit Bastar region.
With Naxal violence back in limelight, the opposition leaders in their campaign rallies have been accusing the Raman Singh government of failing on the security front.
Mr Singh said anger for Naxals is still there is the Bastar region and it would be his priority to ensure peace in the region if voted to power again.
On Salwa Judum, Singh said the movement emerged due to anger among people towards Naxals, which is still there but such movements could not last long.
In 2011, the Supreme Court had ordered disbanding of the anti-Naxal force after calling it illegal and unconstitutional.
Salma Judum was mobilised in 2005 by the late Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who was assassinated by Naxals in 2013, as a vigilante force against the left-wing extremists.
While many had described it as a spontaneous uprising of tribals against the violence in the Bastar region, it had acquired a controversial reputation with allegations that the state administration supplied them arms and helped them recruit untrained locals as ‘special police officers’. They were also accused of burning villages, assaulting people and forcing them out of their homes.
In the 2013 election, the BJP got 49 seats while the Congress secured 39. The BSP got one.