Raman Singh versus his No. 2, snappier than ever
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The rivalry between the two most powerful men in the Chhattisgarh BJP has become more intense, even comical, in the new government.
Before the election, powerful minister Brijmohan Agarwal had publicly termed Chief Minister Raman Singh's top bureaucrats corrupt and demanded their removal. He had also gone into a huddle with other ministers, telling them Singh was ineffective in reining in his babus and a change in guard might be appropriate.
The CM kept silent then, but has now clipped the wings of his number two in the cabinet. Raman Singh first snatched the most lucrative PWD portfolio from Agarwal and handed it to his closest aide, Rajesh Munat.
He then put up huge hoardings, thanking citizens for the vote, across the city that carried his photographs with those of national leaders. Agarwal, whose pictures were absent, countered this with even larger billboards. Here, Raman Singh got literally a passport-size presence in corners.
During the ceremony in which ministers took oath, Agarwal marked himself out by doing so in Chhattisgarhi, a reminder that he belongs to the state. It was a reminder also about Raman Singh who, Agarwal's supporters quietly suggest, is an outsider. The move of playing to the gallery might invalidate his oath, however, should anyone move court. The Constitution allows the oath only in languages listed under Schedule VIII, and Chhattisgarhi is not one of them.
Agarwal has now made his boldest move yet, seeking to upstage Raman Singh on his biggest claim to fame — that of a "hat-trick". Last week, he held a huge rally across Raipur and termed it "shakti pradarshan for a double hat-trick". To undermine Raman Singh's performance, Agarwal showcased his six consecutive victories in assembly elections, the only leader in Chhattisgarh to have achieved that.
He took a recent swipe at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, too. He stopped at a roadside tea-stall, drank tea with the vendor and called it the "Modi effect".
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