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Chhattisgarh Assembly elections 2018: A look at Bharatiya Janata Party BJP, Congress, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh JCC heavyweights

 The exit polls have predicted a neck-and-neck battle in the state.

Chhattisgarh Assembly elections 2018: A look at Bharatiya Janata Party BJP, Congress, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh JCC heavyweights

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Raman Singh, has been in power in Chhattisgarh since 2013. The party has left no stone unturned in making an attempt to retain power in the state, but has, at the same time, faced a stiff opposition from the Congress party. While the BJP once again relied on the credibility of Raman Singh’s leadership, projecting him as its chief ministerial candidate, the Congress declared that a decision of the chief ministerial candidate would be taken after the results on December 11. The exit polls have predicted a neck-and-neck battle in the state, with some of the agencies giving an edge to the Congress party. Whatever the results be, Chhattisgarh Assembly elections have witnessed a number of heavyweights in the fray. Here’s a look at some of them.

BJP:

Raman Singh

A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Raman Singh is the current Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. He has been holding the CM's office since December 7, 2003. Raman Singh, who is seeking his fourth consecutive term, is contesting from Rajnandgaon Assembly constituency in the 2018 polls.

Popularly known as 'Doctor Saheb' being an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner, Singh was born in Kawardha on October 15, 1952. He started his political journey by joining the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and went on to serve as the president of its youth wing in his Kawardha from 1976 to 1977. Later in 1983, he became a councillor of the Kawardha municipality.

In 1999, Singh was elected as a member of the Lok Sabha from Rajnandgaon constituency. He then became the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry from 1999 to 2003.

Led by Raman Singh, the BJP has ruled Chhattisgarh for three consecutive Assembly terms ever since a resounding victory by his party ousted the then Congress leader Ajit Jogi's three-year-old government in 2003.

Singh took oath as the Chief Minister for his second term on December, 12, 2008 and he was re-elected as the chief minister on December 8, 2013. The BJP veteran was elected the Chief Minister for the third time in 2013.

The opposition parties claim there is a strong anti-incumbency wave against Singh and they have alleged his government of having failed in handling the naxal menace.

Vikram Usendi

A member of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vikram Usendi is contesting from Kanker constituency in 2018 Chhattisgarh Assembly polls. He is currently a member of the state Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, serving the post since July 28, 2016.

Born on October 17, 1965, Usendi became a member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1993 and continued until 1998. He served the BJP Youth Front in Kanker District as its president from 2001 to 2003.

After the creation of Chhattisgarh, Usendi became a member of the State Legislative Assembly in 2003. He has been an MLA for three consecutive terms.

The BJP leader became a cabinet minister and served the Ministry of Education under the government of Chhattisgarh from 2003 to 2004.

From 2004 to 2008, he served as a deputy chairman of Bastar Development Authority.

He was also a Cabinet Minister of Forests; Public Undertakings; Public Grievances from 2008 to 2013.

Usendi was elected to the 16th Lok Sabha Assembly in May 2014.

From September 1, 2014 onwards he was a Member of the Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests. Also, he served as a Member of the Consultative Committee, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Prem Prakash Pandey

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of the Legislative Assembly Prem Prakash Pandey is contesting from Bhilai Nagar constituency in 2018 Chhattisgarh polls. Currently, he is a cabinet minister in Chief Minister Raman Singh's government.

He presently serves the Chhattisgarh government as the Minister of Revenue & Rehabilitation, Higher Education, Skill Development, Technical Education and Employment, Science & Technology and Disaster Management Department.

Born on March 8, 1958 in Uttar Pradesh's Deoria, Pandey made his political debut in 1976. The BJP leader won his first election in 1990 following which he was given the Ministry of Education, Skill Development and Technical Education in Madhya Pradesh before it was bifurcated in November 2000.

He was later elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in 1993 and in 1995 he became an elected Executive Member of BJP Yuva Morcha. From 2003 to 2009, he held the post of the Speaker of Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha.

Ajay Chandrakar

Ajay Chandrakar is a member of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a cabinet minister in the Chief Minister Raman Singh-led Chhattisgarh government. In the 2018 state Assembly polls, Chandrakar is contesting from Kurud constituency.

He is currently the Panchayat and Rural Development, Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education and Parliamentary Affairs Minister of Chhattisgarh.

Born on June 24, 1963, Chandrakar became a legislator for the first time in 1998.

In 2003, he became part of the Chhattisgarh government as he was allotted the portfolios of Panchayat and Rural Development Minister and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. 

An additional portfolio of Science and Technology, Technical Education, and Manpower Planning was assigned to him in 2004.

Following a reshuffle in the cabinet in 2007, he was made the Minister of Higher Education.

Despite losing the state assembly polls in 2008, Chandrakar was made the chief of the State Finance Commission by the government, considering his expertise and capability.

Later, he also served the party as its vice chairman and the official spokesperson.

CONGRESS:

Bhupesh Baghel

A member of the Congress party, Bhupesh Baghel has been fielded from Patan constituency in the 2018 Chhattisgarh Assembly elections. He is the current president of Chhattisgarh Congress, serving the post since October 2014.

Born on August 23, 1961, Baghel joined Indian Youth Congress in 1985. He was the youth wing Durg District (rural)'s president from 1990 to 1994.

In 2013, Baghel became a member of the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly, representing Patan constituency. Congress fielded him as its candidate for the 2004 Parliamentary elections from Durg Lok Sabha seat and from Raipur in 2009.

Notably, Baghel became the first Minister for Revenue, Public Health Engineering and relief work after Chhattisgarh was created in November 2000. He served the post until 2003.

From 2003 to 2008, the Congress leader served as the deputy leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh Assembly.

Charan Das Mahant

Congress leader Charan Das Mahant has been fielded from the Korba Lok Sabha constituency. Born on December 13, 1954, Mahant is the former Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.

Notably, during the 15th Lok Sabha term, Mahant was the only Congress Member of Parliament from Chhattisgarh. He won the Korba seat first in 1998 following which he was re-elected in 1999 and in 2009.

He has also served the state Congress wing as its working president. On August 31, 2009, he became a member of the Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests. 

He became the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament on September 23 and on October 19, he was picked as a member of the Consultative Committee, Ministry of Coal Member, Central Rural Development Council.

Karuna Shukla

Congress has fielded Karuna Shukla, niece of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon constituency.

Born on August 1, 1950, Shukla was a member of the 14th Lok Sabha. She was earlier a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and represented the Janjgir Lok Sabha constituency as a BJP Member of Parliament. She lost the 2009 elections to Congress' Charan Das Mahant from Korba seat.

Shukla resigned from the BJP on October 25, 2013, saying that the saffron party was 'allegedly involving into power politics'.

On February 27, 2014, she joined Congress and contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur constituency. She, however, lost to the BJP candidate Lakhanlal Sahu by a margin of 176,436 votes.

Since then, she has been actively engaged in the state politics, particularly in Rajnandgaon.

Tamradhwaj Sahu

Congress leader Tamradhwaj Sahu is a Member of Parliament to the 16th Lok Sabha constituency from Durg (Rural), Chhattisgarh.

Sahu is currently a member of the Standing Committee on Coal and Steel, a member of the Consultative Committee, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and a member of the Rajbhasha Samiti. He has been serving the post since September 1, 2014.

Born on August 6, 1949, Sahu became a member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1998 until Chhattisgarh was created in November 2000.

From 2000 to 2003, he served as a Minister of State under Chhattisgarh government.

The three-time MLA, Sahu, continued his membership with the state legislative assembly from 2000 to 2013.

In May 2014, he was elected to 16th Lok Sabha.

TS Singh Deo

Tribhuvaneshwar Saran Singh Deo is a member of Congress party and the current Leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly since January 3, 2014.

Born on October 31, 1952, TS Singh Deo is an elected member of the state Assembly from Ambikapur (District Surguja) since 2008.

Contesting from Ambikapur, the Congress veteran is the richest nominee with assets in excess of Rs 500 crore. He belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Surguja. He has been re-nominated from the same seat this time.

He is believed to be in the race for the post of chief minister if the Congress comes to power.

In the 2013 elections, TS Singh Deo defeated Anurag Singh Deo, who has been given another chance by the ruling party, with a margin of 19,558 votes. As per the 2013 election data, 2,03,212 voters exercised their franchise in the constituency. 

In 2018, both TS Deo and Anurag Singh Deo will be facing each other for a second time while Sita Ram Das from BSP will be looking to grab the seat.

JCC:

Ajit Jogi

A former member of the Congress party, Ajit Pramod Kumar Jogi served as the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh. In the 2018 state Assembly elections, Jogi contested from Rajnandgaon and Marvahi constituencies.

He was the chief minister of Chhattisgarh from 2000 to 2003. In 2016, he was expelled from Congress along with his son Amit Jogi. Following this, he formed his own political party, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC), in June 2016.

Born on April 29, 1946, Jogi began his political career in 1986 as a member of All India Congress Committee (AICC). He was then nominated to the Rajya Sabha, which he served for two consecutive terms till 1998.

In 1998, he was elected to the 12th Lok Sabha from Raigarh constituency in Chhattisgarh. As a Lok Sabha member, Jogi served Mahasamund constituency after getting elected in 2009 Lok Sabha polls. He, however, lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to BJP's Chandu Lal Sahu by 133 votes.