Same battles, different turfs

While the bipolar nature of politics in Chhattisgarh remains unchanged, delimitation has thrown up some fresh challenges for leaders who have been plucked out of their traditional turfs.

Among those who will have to contest from an unfamiliar territory is BJP vice-president Karuna Shukla, the niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. After her constituency Janjgir was reserved for the SC — of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state, four constituencies have been reserved for STs and one under the SC — she had to scout around to analyse her winning prospects. Though she had tried for a ticket from Bilaspur, which was dereserved in the de-limitation process, the party finally nominated her to contest from the new Korba seat.

Interestingly, she will be pitted against Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee working president Charandas Mahant, who had contested against Shukla from Janjgir in the 2004 polls. Shukla had won by a wide margin, her campaign bolstered by the efforts of her illustrious uncle who had addressed election meetings to canvass support her.

Nonetheless, Korba is likely to be shaky ground for her. The BJP and the Congress have four legislators each in the eight Assembly segments here, indicating that the contest could get tough in Korba Lok Sabha constituency, which spreads into neighbouring Bilaspur and Koriya districts. Congress stalwart and former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Marwahi (ST) Assembly segment—- from where he had won the Assembly polls by a margin of about 42,000 votes last year — also falls in this parliamentary constituency.

Delimitation has, apparently, also provided an opportunity for BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Dilip Singh Judeo to directly face voters after one-and-a-half decade. His name was considered from a number of constituencies, including for Mahasamund seat, which was represented by his bete noire Ajit Jogi. The BJP finally gave him a ticket from Bilaspur, which has been dereserved in the limitation exercise (It was reserved for SCs earlier). While the Congress had initially considered fielding Ashish Singh Thakur from this constituency, it has now given the party's ticket to Ajit Jogi's wife, Renu Jogi. Former Union minister Judeo, who hails from the royal family of Jashpur and who has remained in the limelight with his "operation homecoming" programme aimed at re-conversion of those who embraced Christianity, is now hoping to make a comeback to electoral politics. Incidentally, BJP veteran Punnulal Mohile, who has been representing this constituency for a long time, contested the November 2008 Assembly polls and became Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the Raman Singh Cabinet.

State Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Dauram Ratnakar, who had previously contested from Sarangarh (SC) constituency in the previous polls, is now shifting to Janjgir (SC) following the elimination of the seat (the BJP's sitting member from here, Guharam Ajgale, did not get a ticket because of this). As it happens, BSP founder Kanshi Ram had contested his maiden Lok Sabha polls from Janjgir during the 1984 polls. The Congress has nominated its sitting legislator from Bhilaigarh (SC) Shiv Dehria while BJP is fielding zilla panchayat president Kamla Patle from Janjgir Lok Sabha seat.

Meanwhile, state Congress spokesperson Ramesh Varliyani claims that delimitation has "boosted" his party's winning prospects in Raigarh (ST) Lok Sabha seat, as traditional strongholds of the BJP have not been included in this parliamentary constituency. BJP state president Vishnu Deo Sai is seeking re-election from here and will be pitted against the Congress's Hridaya Ram Rathia, a young tribal leader.

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