Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chhattisgarh govt to buy new chopper

Raipur, December 31
After CM Raman Singh and a couple of his ministers had to cancel their trips due to technical snags in State helicopter AW 109 Power helicopter in the recent past, Chhattisgarh government has reportedly decided to buy a new chopper.
According to information, technical expert have told the State government that it should switch over to new chopper in next 12 months as AW 109 Power copter would no more be safe to fly if it develops frequent technical snags in future. They further advised the government to go for the latest models of helicopters which are equipped with ultra-modern hi-tech features and said to be safest for VIP flights.
Five years back, State helicopter Maina had crashed in dense forests of Balaghat district under Madhya Pradesh in July 2007 when pilots Captain A S Sidhu and Captain Vikram Savekar failed to negotiate adverse weather condition and lost control as a consequence of which the chopper hit a hill. Two more persons aboard - engineer Amitabh Soni and technician Manish Badania also died in the incident.
In December 2007, the State government purchased AW 109 Power from Anglo-Italian helicopter company AgustaWestland at the cost of Rs 25.66 crore. In five years, this chopper is on verge of completing its total flight duration, an indication that it is the right time to replace it with the newer one.
However, experts say, the government would get good resale value of AW 109 Power helicopter from the manufacturer itself despite occurrence of technical snags and completion of five years. They said in the global aviation market, the manufacturers usually buyback their products and sell new models with an aim to retain their customers.
They estimate that the government could get Rs 15-20 crore if it would exchange AW 109 Power copter with a latest model the AgustaWestland. In this manner, the government would have to shell out less bucks in obtaining new chopper, they add.
According to government’s aviation department, the manufacturer will provide the new helicopter to the State at least in one year if order would be placed now. However, according to given procedures, the government would have to first invite global tenders from aviation industries pertaining to its requisite. It will also have to constitute a separate committee to deal tendering process. Sources close to State aviation department informed that the decision regarding new chopper would be taken by January end.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ministers to focus on districts for LS polls

Raipur, December 30
Considering ensuing general elections, CM Raman Singh will soon assign additional task to his ministers – the charge of districts so that BJP may not lose grip and perform better than recently concluded assembly polls.
The ministers becoming district incharges is not a new trend in Chhattisgarh. This has been in practice since inception of the State. Interestingly, no minister gets charge of his/her home-district.
The objective of assigning districts to the ministers is to ensure that local administrations function properly and maintain pace of development works. The ministers looking after the districts also deal public grievances. The reports of these district incharge ministers are being discussed during cabinet meetings and necessary measures are taken accordingly.
There are 27 districts in the State. Presently, CM Raman Singh’s cabinet comprises of nine ministers and three more are likely to be inducted after Lok Sabha polls. Hence, the districts would be allotted within ten ministers including CM himself. In previous term, CM had kept three districts with him while allotted remaining 24 in equal parts to his 12 ministers.
According to information, CM is likely to keep Bastar, Kondagaon and Sukma districts with him. The BJP insiders say that considering significance of Bastar and Kanker LS seats, the CM wants to concentrate in these tribal areas.
The party’s vote share declined sharply in 12 assembly seats of the two LS constituencies in recent polls. Presently, both Bastar and Kanker LS seats are held by BJP.
Home minister Ramsewak Paikra, who hails from Sarguja district, may get charge of Bilaspur, Mungeli and Korba, while WRD minister Brijmohan Agrawal is said to be getting the charge of Sarguja, Surajpur and Balrampur-Ramanujganj.
Health minister Amar Agrawal and food and civil supplies minister Punnulal Mohle may be allotted the same districts which they were handling in the past. In previous term, while Agrawal was incharge of Koria, Jashpur and Raigarh, Mohle was looking after Raipur, Balodabazar and Mahasamund.
Similarly, PWD minister Rajesh Munat too will be incharge of Rajnandgaon, Kawardha and Balod and school education minister Kedar Kashyap will be allotted Bhanupratappur, Bijapur and Dantewada.
Among the new ministers, higher education minister Premprakash Pandey may be asked to oversee Kanker and Bemetara districts, panchayat and rural development minister Ajay Chandrakar may get charge of Dhamtari and Gariyaband and women and child development department minister Ramsheela Sahu may get Janjgir-Champa.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jogi goes into political exile for one year

Raipur, December 28
Following footsteps of his fellow party leader Digvijay Singh, senior Congress leader and Chhattisgarh’s former CM Ajit Jogi has decided to take a break from active politics for one year. While his supporters are shocked by this decision, his rivals in the party as well as BJPians are trying to figure out the meaning of his self-imposed exile.
Jogi says he is now free from all responsibilities and just wants to focus on spiritual and social works for some time. By responsibility he implies his Son Amit who won in recent assembly polls from family bastion Marwahi. However, his opponents termed this reason unconvincing for a break and felt the IAS-turned-politician must be brewing something else and would reveal it only at appropriate time.
Just few days back, Jogi had stated that instead of contesting Lok Sabha polls, he would like to strengthen the organisation by holding some post. However, he did not forgot adding that he would eventually act according to high command’s wish. At that time, the partymen did not take his words seriously as they knew how indignant he was when Bhupesh Baghel, his rival, was anointed as new PCC chief.
Now, when he has overtly expressed his desire to take a break, everybody in the party is thinking differently. His supporters, some of whom were denied assembly ticket but are now aspiring to get chance in general elections, feel their mentor will never leave them in lurch.
His rivals admit that his decision can cost dear to the party in LS polls as he is not only a potential winning candidate, but is also capable of making a difference in some of the seats, especially where SC population is more, during campaigning.
Even State unit president Bhupesh Baghel and ex-PCC chief Charnadas Mahant are worried by Jogi’s statement. Baghel said Jogi, being a senior leader, cannot take such a significant decision without consent of high command. He felt the former CM would surely reconsider his decision. Mahant, on the other hand, termed Jogi as his elder brother and said the latter should contest LS polls and work for benefit of the party.
Besides, the State unit is more concerned over Jogi’s statement in which he said he would continue meeting with political friends during his exile as it is an indication that he is likely to rebuild his own team either to take over the post of PCC head in near future or to float a new party if he and his family would be ignored further.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cong in no mood to change Chhattisgarh incharge

Raipur, December 27
After leadership change in Chhattisgarh unit in wake of party’s embarrassing poll debacle, the Congress leaders had predicted that State incharge BK Hariprasad would be prime target for failing to deliver despite being at job for over two and a half years, but high command has indicated that it is in no mood to make any modification at that level till general elections.
Hariprasad, a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka and AICC general secretary, is presently incharge of three states - Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odhisha. He succeeded V Narayanasamy as Chhattisgarh incharge in March 2011.  
Just one month after his new assignment, the high command replaced PCC chief Dhanendra Sahu with Nandkumar Patel. Both Hariprasad and Patel decided to resuscitate Congress in State. In doing so, they got support of party MP and union minister of state Charandas Mahant and CLP leader Ravindra Choubey.
That was the period when party looked strong and confident due to its extensive activities across the State. However, since Patel was the maximum contributor in rekindling State unit, his killing on May 25,2013 during Maoists attack, was major setback for Hariprasad who could not bring the party back in same track again despite being accompanied by Charandas Mahant, who became new PCC chief, and Ravindra Choubey.
The united Congress looked divided again post May 25-incident. Hariprasad’s role was crucial at this juncture as new State unit president Mahant was not in good terms with Jogi and the two had indicated displeasure against each other through speech and activities. Mahant-led State unit even started ignoring Jogi by keeping him away from party activities. Peeved by the organisation’s attitude, Jogi revolted and started conducting parallel party activities. The party leaders blame Hariprasad for it and think he lacked prudence in handling the given situation.
Hariprasad also failed in assessing candidates during ticket distribution for assembly polls. Sources said despite receiving negative feedback against several sitting MLAs including CLP leader Ravindra Choubey during candidate-selection process, Hariprasad misguided the high command.
Still, considering his rapport with new PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel and other senior State leaders, the central leadership is said to have given him another opportunity to prove his capability and win majority of Lok Sabha seats in State. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

BJP scanning performance of MPs

Raipur, December 26
To finalise candidates for upcoming general elections, Chhattisgarh BJP has started scanning performance of its MPs. Upbeat by its third consecutive victory in assembly polls, the party is now aiming to win all the 11 Lok Sabha seats in April-May 2014. Last time, the party had won ten seats while Congress could manage to win only one.
According to information, the BJP had conducted surveys of its MLAs and MPs twice earlier this year. It was on the basis of these surveys the party had denied ticket to 14 sitting MLAs.
In these surveys, the performance report of all the BJP MPs was found below average. In four seats - Korba, Mahasamund, Bastar and Kanker, the party’s position is very weak it might even struggle for victory.
Considering these revelations, the party is likely to replace few faces either with newer ones or with lost MLAs. More importantly, after demise of its two MPs – Dilip Singh Judeo from Bilaspur and Murailal Singh from Sarguja, the party will have to field appropriate candidates in these constituencies to retain them.
In this context, CM Raman Singh, State BJP president Ramsewak Paikra and organisational secretary Rampratap Singh recently presented the State’s scenario to party supremo Rajnath Singh at New Delhi.
Rajnath Singh has reportedly directed the trio to make constituency-wise poll strategy and prepare the list of candidates after holding talks with local MLAs, district and mandal presidents.
Besides, he asked the State unit to hold workers’ meets to know their opinion about party MPs. The party insiders say that the objective of the workers’ meets was to minimise sabotage by allowing the workers to have their say in open forum and make them feel included in candidate-selection process.
Sources informed that Rajnath Singh has given one month’s time to the State BJP to send the list of LS candidates. Meanwhile, the party’s national unit will two more surveys in the State, one will be done by its special teams and other by a professional agency. The final list of 11 will be made after tallying State unit’s recommendations and latest survey reports. The names of candidates would be announced in two phases in February.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

EC preps up for RS polls

Raipur, December 25
Election Commission has started preparations for biennial Rajya Sabha elections as over 50 seats of about dozens of states including Chhattisagrh are vacating in March and April in 2014. In Chhattisgarh, the tenure of two RS members is concluding in April end. The EC has indicated of conducting RS polls in the first fortnight of April.
The commission has reportedly sent a letter to State’s chief electoral officer Sunil Kujur seeking information pertaining appointment of returning officer (RO), assistant returning officer (ARO) and poll centre. Kujur has forwarded this letter to State assembly secretariat and directed to quickly send names of RO and ARO.
According to information, State assembly’s principal secretary Devendra Verma and official M Gangarade are likely to be appointed as RO and ARO for RS polls again as they have been doing this job for the past couple of terms. If needed, the polling would be conducted in room number 2 in Vidhan Sabha campus.
From Chhattisgarh, the Upper House of parliament is represented by BJP’s Shivpratap Singh, Nandkumar Sai and Dr Bhushan Lal Jangde and Congress’ Motilal Vora and Mohsina Kidwai. In April, the two-year term of Shivpratap Singh and Motilal Vora will conclude.
While in Congress circle, AICC treasurer and octogenarian Vora is set to make a hat trick in the RS for his closeness with the high command and skill with which he is handling the party finances, the BJP is likely to replace Shivpratap Singh with a new face.
According to information, the State unit of BJP is planning to give opportunity to one of the organisational members in the RS. CM Raman Singh has hinted that his preference would be organisational secretary Rampratap Singh.
Considering status of political parties in 90-member State assembly, BJP has 49 seats, Congress has 39 and one each belong to BSP and independent. Hence, this time too, one seat each will go to BJP and Congress. If polling will be held, the candidates will require 50 percent of the total votes to win. According to vote share, both BJP and Congress candidates are likely to be elected unopposed.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

AAP eyes LS seats in tribal Chhattisgarh

Raipur, December 24
Effervescing with confidence after tasting success in its maiden assembly elections in Delhi, the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is on expansion spree as it has started searching favorable ground for establishing its units in other states with clear intention to send host of apolitical people in parliament by fielding them in upcoming general elections. In this context, AAP members recently toured Maoist-hit hypersensitive areas of Bastar and Kanker Lok Sabha constituencies in Chhattisgarh to get acquainted with political conditions.
According to information, a two-member AAP team comprising the party’s national executive member Dr Devendra Sharma and his colleague travelled Kanker, Jagdalpur, Bijapur, Dantewada and Konta onDecember 20. The party had kept itinerary of these members secret due to their movement in naxal-infested regions. Except some supporters, nobody in AAP’s State unit was aware of this visit.
During their tour, the two members not only collected information about geographical and social conditions, but also tried to learn how deep the roots of BJP, Congress and Communist Party of India (CPI) are in those regions.
Besides, they fetched data about tribal population, their financial condition, job prospects for locals under government schemes, migration status and influence of Maoists on villagers.
Further, they talked to local activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to know about the status of human rights and aftereffects of Salva Judum – the movement which was initiated by State government a couple of years back to train local youth to counter naxals, but was stopped after Supreme Court invalidated it.
Though the two members did not disclose the reason of their Chhatisgarh visit, they hinted that AAP was planning to contest Lok Sabha polls in some seats of the State.
In recent polls, Congress captured five out of eight assembly seats under Bastar LS constituency and received 10,000 more votes than BJP. Similarly, in Kanker parliamentary constituency, Congress grabbed six out of eight seats and got 85,000 more votes than BJP.
Apparently, the swing was in favour of Congress in tribal Chhattisgarh, though BJP managed to come to power again by winning more seats in other parts of the State. However, with just three months remaining for general elections and considering low literacy rate and no awareness in tribal areas, it would really be a tough task for AAP to pose serious challenge to BJP and Congress unless it succeeds in making people believe that the issues it raised would be dealt effectively if given mandate.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Farmers at loss over paddy politics

Raipur, December 23
With elections around, politicians suddenly pose themselves as servants of masses. Ask them a favour and they will run for you. With nearing polling date, their dedication towards people increases. This year, the politicians are feeling more pressure as they are compelled to grin for a longer time as the so-called semi-finals termed by BJP and Congress in five states have just concluded and grand finale called general elections is ahead. With bigger target to achieve, the political parties toss major issues to woo voters, especially the vulnerable section including farmers and farm labourers. In Chhattisgarh, while both BJP and Congress are battling hard to prove that they are farmer-friendly parties by playing politics over paddy bonus and minimum support price (MSP) for years, none has done enough for the deserving section by far.
Chhattisgarh, one of the largest paddy producing states, is known as rice bowl of India. It is the third largest State in the country in terms of paddy contribution to central pool. In last 13 years, the paddy procurement in State increased from 25 lakh tonne to 60 lakh tonne. However, as compared to paddy production, the farmers have not received MSP and bonus per quintal of paddy in that proportion.
The paddy MSP, which was Rs 510 in 2000-2001, increased by Rs 740 in 13 years and is Rs 1250 at present.
In 2008, the BJP, in its election manifesto, promised farmers in Chhattisgarh to disburse Rs 270 as bonus for each quintal of paddy. The promise was made for five years but the ruling party rubbed its hands by disbursing Rs 220 bonus in the first year and Rs 50 bonus in subsequent years.
According to a calculation made by opposition Congress, the government procured 35 lakh tonne, 45 lakh tonne, 51 lakh tonne, 59 lakh tonne and 60 lakh tonne in 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 and did not give total bonus of Rs 3880 crore to the farmers.
In recently concluded elections, both BJP and Congress and once again promised the farmers to increase paddy MSP to Rs 2100 and Rs 2000 respectively. After coming to power in the State for third time, CM Raman Singh, on first day at his office, announced that the paddy bonus would also be increased from Rs 270 to Rs 300, however he refrained from talking on paddy MSP. He said it was matter of Centre and he had written it a letter.
In recent past, price rise has broken backbone of farmers. Not only the cost of fertilisers and labour rate have increased by manifold,     the farmers are also bound to pay high power tariff despite the government’s promise that they would get free electricity up to five HP pumps for irrigation. As the loan rates too are high and intermittent rains in State have damaged crops in many parts of State, the farmers have expected that the ruling party would provide them some relief in terms of loan waiver and other benefits while opposition would mount pressure on its government at Centre to increase MSP beyond Rs 2000.
However, neither the BJP, nor Congress seems serious in fulfilling their promises and taking cognisance of farmers’ woes. Rather, they are simply attempting to woo them again on the basis of fresh promises which would never be met.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Congress alienates Ajit Jogi again

Raipur, December 21
The recent development in Chhattisgarh Congress is bad omen for former CM Ajit Jogi who was aiming to take control of party unit in his hands either by getting PCC president’s post for his spouse or for one of his supporters. By abruptly appointing Bhupesh Baghel as new PCC president, Congress high command has made it evident that it is barely interested in entertaining advices of State leaders, especially Jogi who has always been in good terms with it and enjoyed special treatment due to his seniority and popularity in the party unit.
Not long ago, Jogi was thorn in the eyes of his fellow Congress leaders for his parallel party activities, but he agreed to bury the hatchet with rivals on persuasion of high command just before recent polls to wrest power in the State. However, the destiny spurned Congress for third time in a row and Jogi found himself stranded in no man’s land again.
He is more upset because the party supremo has given reins of State unit to Baghel, his anathema. Baghel is the only leader in the party who continued attacking Jogi through his acerbic remarks when others had called truce during polls. In fact, Baghel did not even hesitate in criticising Jogi when he was minister under latter’s chief minister-ship back in 2000-2003.
It would be interesting to see how Jogi would co-exist with Baghel in the party. Being senior to Baghel, he is less likely to follow the former’s instructions. In the past too, the PCC chiefs Dhanendra Sahu, Nandkumar Patel and Charandas Mahant had failed to tame him.
With general elections slated to be held in April-May 2014, the party has started internal preparations and would aim to win maximum number of seats in State. Like assembly polls, Jogi’s role will be equally crucial in Lok Sabha elections too as he too would be in fray this time. Last time, his spouse Dr Renu Jogi had contested LS polls from Bilaspur against BJP’s Dilip Singh Judeo and lost.
Sources say Jogi is thinking otherwise and might refuse to contest polls and prefer to steer poll campaign committee in State. They say instead of moving to New Delhi, Jogi wants to consolidate his son Amit’s position in the State by increasing his penetration in the organisation and its frontal units. Jogi’s intentions are clear – if he will not become CM, he will prepare his son for the job in next five years. In doing so, he will have to face challenge from Baghel who would let no stone unturned in strengthening organisational faction. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

BJP to revamp organisation in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, December 20
After leadership change in Chhattisgarh Congress, BJP is planning to revamp organisational structure of its State unit ahead of general elections. However, instead of sea-change in the entire cadre, it would be selective and significant change in upper crust of the organisation. The need of this exercise is felt in the party to keep senior MLAs, who lost in recent polls, engaged by redefining their roles and responsibilities for Lok Sabha polls.
The party will first appoint a new state unit president as the existing one Ramsewak Paikra has been inducted in Raman Singh cabinet as home minister. The change in the leadership will be done under BJP’s ‘one man one post’ principle. Paikra is likely to resign from the post of State BJP chief in next couple of days.
Among host of claimants for coveted post of State head, scheduled tribe lobby may once again win the race as the party could continue doing balancing act by keeping the posts of state unit and home minister reserved for tribals after refusing to replace CM Raman Singh with a tribal face.
However, the party can also go the Congress way and pick new State chief from OBC section to increase its vote-share in Kurmi and Sahu populated areas in upcoming polls.
Among the frontrunners for the top job include firebrand leader Ramvichar Netam who has held ministerial posts in BJP’s previous two terms in State and former Speaker at State legislative assembly Dharamlal Kaushik. Besides, the names of Raigarh Lok Sabha MP Vishnudeo Sai, two-time minister in Raman Singh cabinet Lata Usendi and few others too have flashed. 
The decision pertaining to new State chief will be taken jointly by BJP national joint general secretary (organisation) Saudan Singh, party’s Chhattisgarh incharge Jagat Prakash Nadda and CM Raman Singh. The three are expected to meet next week and discuss about the new leader of the organisation. The selected name will then be forward to party’s national president Rajnath Singh for approval.
After selecting State chief, the party will assign fresh posts to the lost MLAs either by replacing those who had won recently or by expanding the size of the organisation.
The BJP had fielded 36 out of 50 MLAs in the recently concluded assembly polls but 21 failed in saving their seats. Among the losers include five ministers, Speaker and a deputy Speaker. Sources told that while some of these lost MLAs are likely to get ticket for LS polls, the rest will either be inducted in the organsation or given charge of parliamentary constituencies to chalk out strategy to counter Congress.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bhupesh Baghel becomes Chhattisgarh PCC chief

Raipur, December 19
Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi has appointed Chhattisgarh PCC prorgamme coordinator Bhupesh Baghel as new State unit president. Baghel has replaced Charandas Mahant who held the post of PCC chief for over six months. Since, the high command changed the State leadership just three months before general elections, it would be challenging for Baghel to reorganise the party which is feeling dejected after recent poll debacle.
According to information, Mahant, who represents Korba Lok Sabha constituency in State and holds portfolio of union minister of state for agriculture and food processing industries at Centre, has himself expressed desire to step down from the post of PCC president after recently concluded polls citing reason that he wanted to utilise next three months in preparing for general elections.
Interestingly, Baghel’s anointment as new PCC chief has been hailed from both organisational and Ajit Jogi factions. While Mahant, Satyanarayan Sharma, TS Singhdeo and other organisational leaders welcomed the move and felt that Baghel deserved the top post and would do justice to it, former CM Ajit Jogi, whose political rivalry with Baghel is well-known to all, too has showered encomiums on party supremo’s decision.
In his first reaction on Baghel’s new assignment, Jogi said Baghel had capability to unite the party and the central leadership had picked him after contemplation. While political pundits are trying to find out sarcasm in Jogi’s statement, it is Baghel who would have to take initiative and bury the hatchet with the former CM and seek his support to win maximum number of seats in LS polls in State.
Baghel has given tough time to ruling BJP, especially CM Raman Singh, on host of issues in last two years or so. His elevation is seen as reward to the offensive launched by him against the saffron government single-handedly.
Baghel, 62, started his political career back in 1984. He won assembly polls for the first time in undivided Madhya Pradesh (MP) in 1993. This time, he won from Patan and it was his fourth victory. He has been union minister of state for grievance redressal department and transport minister in 1998 and 1999 under then Digvijay Singh’s government in MP.

Chhatisgarh assembly’s first session from Jan 6

Raipur, December 19
The first session of Chhattisgarh’s fourth legislative assembly is likely to commence from first week of January 2014. According to information, the session will start from January 6, the day when State’s third legislative assembly will dissolve.
“It will be joint budget session that will be conducted in two phases –in January and then in February and March,” sources said.
In the first phase, all the legislators will take oath and full-time Speaker would be elected. The oath to House members will be administered by protem speaker for which Congress MLA Satyanarayan Sharma’s name is on top on the basis of his seniority.
The budget session will start with Governor’s customary address followed by swearing-in ceremony of MLAs.
In the second phase, CM Raman Singh, who also holds finance department, will present the State budget for fiscal 2014-15. His budget address will be followed by debate budgetary grants for every department. The second phase is likely to start from third week of February and conclude in second week of March.
With Brijmohan Agrawal and Amar Agrawal getting berth in Raman Singh cabinet and Premprakash Pandey and Ajay Chandrakar preferring ministerial post to Speaker’s job, Gaurishankar Agrawal is set to become fourth Speaker of Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha. His name will be announced after oath-taking ceremony. The first three Speakers of the House were Rajendra Prasad Shukla from Congress, and BJP’s Premprakash Pandey and Dharamlal Kaushik.
It is learnt that CM Raman Singh had himself convinced Gaurishankar Agrawal to take the assignment of conducting State assembly for full-time as it would be difficult for him to justify the induction of three Agrawals in the cabinet by ignoring claims of other deserving candidates.
The opposition Congress, on the other hand, is gearing up to stake claim on post of deputy Speaker. The ruling BJP, in previous two terms, had kept the post with it. The post was held by BJP’s Banwari Lal Agrawal and Dharamjeet Singh from Congress in the first legislative assembly when Congress was in power. In second and third legislative assemblies, the post was entrusted to BJP’s Badridhar Diwan and Narayan Chandel. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Raman to woo voters with 9 ministers in LS polls

Raipur, December 18
With slightly over three months remaining for general elections, Chhattisgarh Chief minister Raman Singh on Wednesday made it evident that he would be wooing voters for BJP to wrest power at Centre with nine ministers. He held first meeting of the cabinet after swearing-in ceremony today and distributed portfolios.
The CM has himself has kept 15 departments, some of which would be distributed to the new ministers who would inducted during cabinet expansion in June-July after Lok Sabha polls. He has indicated that the remaining ministerial berths would be entrusted to best three performing MLAs in upcoming polls.
As expected, the key portfolio of home has been given to tribal MLA and State BJP president Ramsewak Paikra. In previous term, Nankiram Kanwar was the home minister but he lost in recent polls. Before Kanwar, the department was held first by Brijmohan Agrawal and then Ramvichar Netam from BJP during 2003-2008 and Nandkumar Patel from Congress from 2000-2003. Paikra will be looking after two more departments – jail and PHE.
The BJP’s old warrior Brijmohan Agrawal, who posted victory in assembly polls for sixth consecutive time, will be dealing new departments - water resources and agriculture along with four other portfolios. While water resources department was held by Ramvichar Netam in previous term, the agriculture department was with Chandrashekhar Sahu. Both Netam and Sahu lost this time.
Another significant portfolio panchayat and rural development has been given to Ajay Chandrakar who had held it during 2003-2008. In last polls, Chandrakar had failed to save his seat. He will also be responsible for parliamentary affairs department that was with him during BJP’s first tenure. Besides, he would be incharge of tourism and culture departments.
PWD, the big-budget is back to Rajesh Munat after five years. Besides, he will be handling the old portfolios – housing and environment and transport.
Despite health department remaining in controversy due to scams and grafts in previous term under Amar Agrawal, the CM had decided not to change his portfolio. However, the CM has snatched urban administration department from Agrawal and kept with himself.
The young minister Kedar Kashyap, who had drawn flak last year for not posing seriousness in maintaining government owned ashram schools that led to minor girls’ gangrape case in Jhaliyamari under Kanker district, has elevated in Raman Singh cabinet and he would now be handling school education department.
Among other ministers, while Punnulal Mohle will continue with food, civil supplies and consumer protection department, new faces Premprakash Pandey and Ramsheela Sahu will be looking after Revenue and women and child development departments along with a couple of other portfolios.

CM Raman Singh
GAD, finance, department of planning, economics and statistics, IT, energy, mineral resources, public relations, commerce and industries, urban administration, law and legal affairs, aviation, sports, forest, PSUs, grievance redressal
Ramsewak Paikra
Home, jail, PHE
Brijmohan Agrawal
Agriculture, WRD, ayacut, fisheries, animal husbandry, religious trust and religion

Amar Agrawal
Health and family welfare, health education, commercial tax, labour
Punnulal Mohle
Food, civil supplies and consumer protection, rural industries, cooperative, 20-point programme
Rajesh Munat
PWD, housing and environment, transport
Kedar Kashyap
School education, SC and ST development, backward and minority development
Ajay Chandrakar
Panchayat and rural development, tourism, culture, parliamentary affairs
Premprakash Pandey
Revenue and disaster management, rehabilitation, higher education, technical education and manpower planning, science and technology
Ramsheela Sahu
Women and child development, social welfare

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Raman’s new cabinet to be constituted today

Raipur, December 17
Five days after his swearing-in ceremony as chief minister of Chhattisgarh for third time, Raman Singh will constitute his new cabinet on Wednesday. As announced, the ministerial posts will be filled in two phases. Governor Shekhar Dutt will administer oath to the first lot of ministers at Rajbhavan on Wednesday evening.  
After taking approval of BJP president Rajnath Singh on proposed list of ministers, CM Raman Singh said the names had been finalised considering factors like seniority, experience, caste, region and gender.
In previous term, CM Raman Singh had 12 cabinet ministers. This time too, he said he his cabinet would be of the same size. According to information, while eight ministers are likely to take oath in the first phase, the second lot would be inducted in the cabinet after general elections.
In recent polls, seven out of 12 ministers managed to win again. Among the winners, Brijmohan Agrawal, Amar Agrawal, Rajesh Munat represent general category, Vikram Usendi, Kedar Kashyap belong to tribal community and Punnulal Mohle and Dayaldas Baghel hail from scheduled caste.
Being senior MLAs, while Brijmohan Agrawal and Amar Agrawal are set to become ministers, Rajesh Munat too would be inducted in the cabinet for his proximity with the CM.
Since Vikram Usendi and Kedar Kashyap are among the four fortunate BJPians who won elections in Bastar this time, the two would also be rewarded with ministerial posts. However, Punnulal Mohle might be the lone SC face in the cabinet as Dayaldas Baghel failed to meet CM’s expectations as a revenue minister.
With six old ministers, BJP State president Ramsewak Paikra and Ramsheela Sahu can be two new faces in the first lot of the cabinet. In previous polls, Ramsewak Paikra had lost to Dr Premsai Singh Tekam of Congress. He was then given the baton of party’s State unit on CM Raman Singh’s recommendation. Ramsheela Sahu was winner in 2003 polls but she was denied ticket in 2008. This time, she defeated Pratima Chandrakar of Congress.
Former State assembly speaker Premprakash Pandey and ex-minister Ajay Chandrakar are back with victory in 2013 polls. Pandey was said to be CM’s first preference for speaker’s post but he has reportedly demanded ministerial berth. As Chandrakar too is reluctant in taking speaker’s assignment, the CM is said to be including him in the cabinet.
It is learnt that Gaurishankar Agrawal, who has trounced Rajkamal Singhania of Congress by 27,000 votes, will be the speaker of the fourth assembly. Agrawal was not in the fray in 2008 polls.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rahul summons Mahant to talk for LS prep

Raipur, December 16
While its think tank is busy in introspecting its “awful debacle” in four out of five states in recently concluded assembly polls which was touted as semi-finals ahead of general elections, the Congress leadership has turned its focus towards final battle for central power and in the process, party vice president Rahul Gandhi has reportedly summoned all the PCC heads including Chhattisgarh unit chief Charandas Mahant to take stock of preparations and discuss over candidate-selection method onDecember 19.
The meeting will also be attended by party’s Chhattisgarh incharge BK Hariprasada. Meanwhile, if the party elects leader of the opposition, he/she too will attend the meeting.
Both Mahant and Hariprasada have been asked to come up with their individual reports on party’s poll performance. According to information, the PCC presidents of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi too have been issued similar instructions.
Sources say critical analysis of the reports of four states would help Gandhi in making amendments in poll preparation, strategy to deal opposition parties and candidate-selection process for Lok Sabha elections.
In Chhattisgarh, Gandhi had sent observers in two rounds to find out appropriate candidates for LS polls. The observers toured all 27 districts and took inputs from block and district officer-bearers pertaining to probable LS candidate from their respective areas.
Later, the observers talked to PCC office-bearers in this regard. After receiving reports from observers, the party high command had conducted a couple of surveys in the State.
Among 11 LS seats in State, Congress has one in its account, i.e. Korba while the remaining belong to BJP. Aiming to make a hat trick at Centre, the Congress wants to win maximum number of seats in Chhattisgarh.
In recent assembly polls, neither Rahul Gandhi formula clicked nor experience of state leaders helped the party in improving its performance. Still Gandhi has reasons to smile as 12 out of 18 candidates finalised by him for first phase of polls won and the party succeeded in breaking 10-year jinx in tribal Bastar. For remaining 72 seats in second phase, Gandhi had approved names recommended by the state leaders and the party could win in only 27 constituencies.
The party had fielded 35 out of its 38 MLAs but 27 lost. The party thinks since people have opted for new faces in the assembly polls, it should not take risk in pitting old horses in the LS battle. Gandhi too has hinted of giving fair number of tickets to youth, though he might also consider some of the top performers in recent polls.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tug of war in Cong for leader of opposition

Raipur, December 14
While Congress leadership is in deep trance after the party’s third defeat in a row in Chhattisgarh assembly polls, the State unit’s factions, who were dormant during election period, have come into action again and this time the reason for their confrontation is coveted post of leader of opposition (LOP) in Vidhan Sabha.
The party in State is dominated by two factions – one belong to former CM Ajit Jogi and the other to organisation itself. Both the factions have their own list of candidates for the post of LOP. They have now started lobbying for their candidates at New Delhi to keep equilibrium in their side in the party.
Although, as compared to previous polls, Congress managed to win one additional seat this time with total count of 39, it failed to counter anti-incumbency factor in constituencies of its own 35 re-contesting MLAs including LOP Ravindra Choubey. Consequently, the party has left with only few experienced MLAs with oratory skills and knowledge to take up ruling BJP in State assembly.
In previous term, the ruling party faced attack from several opposition members in the House including LOP Ravindra Choubey, Ajit Jogi, Nandkumar Patel, Mohammad Akbar, Dharamjeet Singh, Paresh Bagbahra, Agni Chandrakar, etc.
As Congress will be missing these weapons in the House for next five years, it would have to train new legislators to keep the ruling party members on their toes by raising all the issues strongly. For this, it would require a dynamic person who could lead from the front and the answer to this lies in lists of both Jogi and organisational factions.
In Jogi’s list, the name of his spouse Dr Renu is on top. Dr Renu will represent the House for third consecutive time. She was earlier thought to be potential chief ministerial candidate from Congress after Jogi himself. Jogi is also likely to project the name of tribal MLA Kawasi Lakhma and few others from Sarguja and Bastar who have approached him after poll results.
From organisation, Satyanarayan Sharma, Bhupesh Baghel, Dhanendra Sahu and TS Singhdeo are frontrunners for LOP post. While, Satyanarayan Sharma will return in the House after a long gap of ten years, Bhupesh Baghel and Dhanendra Sahu are back again after five years.
Among the three, Baghel was more active in last five years with different roles and responsibilities in the organisation. He had even dragged CM Raman Singh’s names directly in a couple of issues and taken the matter to the court. TS Singhdeo too has fair chances of getting the LOP job for his hard work that helped Congress increasing its tally in Sarguja division by winning two additional seats and grabbing total seven out of 14.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lost in VS battle, Cong bigwigs now eye LS ticket

Raipur, December 13
Losing an election battle is always frustrating, but seasoned politicians cope with such embarrassing situations in a jiffy and start preparing for fresh democratic encounter. The Congress bigwigs in Chhattisgarh, who have tasted bitter pills in recently concluded assembly polls, too are au fait with this art and hence aiming to have a rendezvous with voters again by obtaining Lok Sabha ticket from party high command on the basis of their impressive victory records in the past.
At present, Congress has one out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in State. Korba, the sole seat, is held by union minister of state and PCC president Charandas Mahant who is set to contest from same constituency again.
For remaining ten seats, the party is hunting faces that may prove perception of political pundits and psephologists about Congress wrong in ensuing general elections.
Since state and central elections are fought on different issues and voters keep changing their mindset about political parties frequently, Congress will not hesitate in reconsidering the leaders who somehow missed the victory bus.
Knowing this fact, former leader of opposition Ravindra Choubey, ex-MLAs Mohammad Akbar and Dharmjeet Singh, Raipur mayor Kiranmayi Nayak, Bilaspur mayor Vani Rao and few others are planning to offer their candidature for Lok Sabha polls to the party’s national leadership.
After winning six consecutive assembly polls from Saja, Ravindra Choubey lost this time. Saja comes under Durg Lok Sabha area. In 2009, the party had given ticket to his elder brother Pradeep Choubey who was trounced by BJP’s Saroj Pandey. Since Pradeep Choubey has lost two LS battles from Durg, Ravindra Choubey is likely to stake a claim to the seat for 2014.
Mohammad Akbar, a three-time MLA, wants to try his luck either from Raipur or Rajnandgoan LS areas. Akbar had won Vidhan Sabha elections twice from Virendra Nagar and once from Pandaria. This time, he was the only candidate whose seat was changed on request. He contested from Kawardha, CM Raman Singh’s hometown, but was destined to lose. He now aims to represent parliament as a Muslim face of State Congress.
Raipur mayor Kiranmayi Nayak too is aspiring to contest from Raipur LS seat. She lost November polls to BJP minister Brijmohan Agrawal from Raipur City South. In 2009, Congress had fielded Bhupesh Baghel from Raipur LS seat but he could not put break on winning streak of BJP’s Ramesh Bais. However, Baghel won recent polls from Patan assembly seat and the party is in search of new face.
For Bilaspur LS ticket, there are host of aspirants including Ajit Jogi, Dharamjeet Singh and local mayor Vani Rao. Since Ajit Jogi did not contest assembly polls, he will be first choice for the seat. Last time, his spouse Dr Renu had lost the battle to BJP’s Dilip Singh Judeo who died a couple of months back. The seat is vacant since then.
If Jogi will opt for Mahasamund LS constituency, where he had defeated the then BJP candidate Vidya Charan Shukla in 2004, the party may consider Dharamjeet Singh or Vani Rao from Bilaspur.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Raman Singh swears-in as CM for third time

Raipur, December 12
After posting historical victory in 13-year-old Chhattisgarh for third consecutive time, BJP’s Raman Singh formally took reins of State once again as Governor Shekhar Dutt administered him oath for post of chief minister in presence of about 40 VVIPs ranging from BJP’s entire national leadership to CMs of six states, representatives of NDA allies and 20,000 spectators at police parade ground at 11:40 am in Raipur on Thursday.
This time, Singh took oath alone as his new team is yet to be finalised. According to information, he has prepared a list of MLAs whom he wants to induct in his cabinet, but the final nod will come from high command.

The new ministers are likely to take oath on December 15 or 16 as BJP’s top brasses would be busy in swearing-in ceremonies of Vasundhara Raje at Jaipur on December 13 and Shivraj Singh Chouhan at Bhopal on December 14.
Considering VVIP arrivals to participate in swearing in ceremony, State police had heightened security in the capital city from Swami Vivekanand airport to police parade ground. As the police had blocked several roads for VVIP movement, traffic in many parts of the city and its outskirts remained disrupted for a couple of hours after the function.
CM Raman Singh had engaged senior MLAs Brijmohan Agrawal and Amar Agrawal to receive guests at airport while Rajesh Munat took charge of stage. His spouse Veena Singh was seen greeting the guests on stage throughout the progamme.
After oath taking ceremony, Governor Shekhar Dutt hosted lunch at Rajbhawan for all the VVIP guests.
The top BJP leaders who participated in swearing-in ceremony included Lal Krishna Advani,  Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, Ramlal, Rajeev Pratap Rudi, Ravishankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, Sushil Modi, Navjot Singh Siddhu, Dr Harshvardhan, Ananth Kumar, Nitin Gadkari, Arjun Munda, Naredra Singh Tomar, Jagat Prakash Nadda and Dharmendra Pradhan.
Besides, BJP CMs Narendra Modi from Gujarat, Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Madhya Pradesh, Manohar Parrikar from Goa and Vasundhara Raje from Rajasthan were also present.
As an ally of BJP-led national democratic alliance (NDA), Shiromani Akali Dal was represented by Punjab CM Praksh Singh Badal and Shiv Sena by its chief Uddhav Thakre. Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik too featured among the guests as representative of his party Biju Janata Dal that was NDA’s former ally. In addition, business tycoon Subrata Roy Sahara was also seen sharing the stage with the VVIPs.
From Congress came former State CM Ajit Jogi with his family including spouse Dr Renu, son Amit and daughter-in-law. AICC treasurer Motilal Vora’s son Arun Vora and host of newly elected Congress MLAs too arrived to be the witness of historical moment.

Who said what
BJP president Rajnath Singh – This is people’s victory. Everybody in party worked hard for this. We will not stop here and win next assembly polls too in Chhattisgarh.
Former BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu – Winning elections three times in a streak is not an easy task. People gave mandate to Raman Singh-government because it did good job. Now, it is government’s turn to fulfill the promises it made to the people. The BJP is also ready to take challenge to post similar victory in entire country during general elections and form government at Centre.
Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan – It is success of BJP’s good governance in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The party will repeat its performance by winning maximum seats in the two states in Lok Sabha polls.
Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje – Congratulations to people of Chhattisgarh. The result in four states is just a trailer as we will seal thumping victory in 2014 general elections.
Former Chhattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi – We should respect pubic mandate. However, CM Raman Sing should not take firm steps to wipe out Maoists from Chhattisgarh.

BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh get rousing welcome when they walked on stage.

Except exchange of greetings between them, LK Advani and Modi did not talk to each other. As usual BJP chief Rajnath Singh sat between Advani and Modi on stage.

Advani arrived with his daughter Pratibha while Shiv sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray was accompanied by son Aditya.

In the absence of senior Congress leaders, Ajit Jogi hogged the limelight at swearing-in ceremony and State BJP leaders were seen greeting him and talking with him amicably.

As Jogi was sitting in the front row on stage, almost all the top BJP leaders met him cordially.  

When Advani came on stage, Jogi touched his feet and sought his blessings. Modi, Vasundhara Raje and Ravidhankar Prasad also talked for a while before commencement of the programme.

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