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Lok Sabha polls 2024 | BJP strives to retain Rajnandgaon seat in Chhattisgarh as ex-CM from Congress poses challenge

BJP's Santosh Pandey is seeking his second straight term from Rajnandgaon, while the opposition Congress has fielded its firebrand leader and former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel against him.
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 09:44 IST
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 09:44 IST

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Rajnandgaon: The Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat in Chhattisgarh, which showed the influence of an erstwhile royal family in electoral politics and the journey of several powerful politicians in the state, is witnessing an interesting fight this time, with the sitting MP locking horns with a former chief minister.

BJP's Santosh Pandey is seeking his second straight term from Rajnandgaon, while the opposition Congress has fielded its firebrand leader and former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel against him.

Rajnandgaon is among three seats in Chhattisgarh which will go to polls on Friday.

This Lok Sabha seat derived its name from Rajnandgaon district, which is popularly known as 'sanskardhani' (cultural capital) of Chhattisgarh. But this seat has also been a witness to a member of Parliament losing his membership after being found guilty in the infamous 2005 cash-for-query scandal.

Members of the erstwhile Khairagarh royal family have won the Rajnandgaon seat seven times as candidates of the Indian National Congress since the formation of the parliamentary constituency in 1957.

So far, the Congress has won this seat in general elections eight times and once in a bypoll, while the BJP has won the poll seven times and the Janata Party once.

Raja Virendra Bahadur Singh won the election from this seat in 1957 and 1962, followed by Rani Padmavati of the same family in 1967 as Congress candidates.

However, in 1971, Congress sprung a surprise and fielded Ramsahai Pandey, then a businessman from Mumbai (then Bombay), prompting Padmavati Devi to rebel. But Pandey won the election.

The equation changed in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections as Madan Tiwari of the Janata Party emerged victorious in this seat. Tiwari defeated Shivendra Bahadur Singh, a scion of the Khairagarh royal family.

In 1980, the Khairagarh royal family made a comeback with Shivendra Bahadur Singh winning the seat, and retaining it in 1984.

In the 1989 elections, BJP fielded Dharamlal Gupta, a financially-sound businessman from Durg district, in this seat against Congress' Shivendra Bahadur Singh. The slogan of 'Paise se paisa takrayega' (money will take on money) was famous during the electioneering. Gupta won that election.

In the Lok Sabha elections in 1991, Shivendra Bahadur again grabbed this seat. In 1996, BJP's Ashok Sharma emerged victorious and in 1998, Congress' influential leader and former chief minister Motilal Vora was elected as the MP from Rajnandgaon.

BJP fielded Raman Singh, then a low-profile leader and a former MLA, against Vora in the 1999 elections. Singh defeated Vora, following which he was made union minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government at the Centre.

Later, Singh served as the chief minister of Chhattisgarh thrice (2003, 2008 and 2013) and he is presently the speaker of state assembly.

Since then, the BJP has also never lost the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat in the last four general elections after formation of the state. But in 2007, the Congress won this seat in a bypoll.

BJP's Pradeep Gandhi won this seat in 2004, Madhusudan Yadav in 2009, Abhishek Singh (son of Raman Singh) in 2014 and Santosh Pandey in 2019.

Gandhi lost his membership after he was found guilty in the 2005 cash-for-query scam. A sting operation against the then MPs was conducted by two journalists which was telecast on a private news channel on December 12, 2005. The sting, which showed them taking cash for raising questions in Parliament, came to be known as the cash-for-query scam.

Gandhi's expulsion necessitated the bypoll in Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat in which Devvrat Singh, a member of Khairagarh royal family, of Congress emerged victorious.

Political analyst Purushottam Tiwari said that after Madan Tiwari was elected as MP from Rajnandgaon (in 1977 as Janata Party candidate), the political equations of this seat changed.

People started looking at alternatives other than the Congress which gradually lost its hold over Rajnandgaon. The grand old party has tried its one of strongest and influential OBC leaders Baghel in this backward caste-dominated constituency this time, he said.

However, caste factor has never influenced the outcome of the poll in this seat. During the last assembly polls, the BJP aggressively campaigned on the issue of Hindutva in Kawardha district falling in Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat, which virtually benefited the party, he said.

This time, too, the Hindutva card is going to play a crucial role for the ruling party, he added.

An alleged incident of removal of religious flags from a thoroughfare in Kawardha town in 2021 that had resulted in a clash between the two communities was extensively raised by BJP during assembly polls.

Congress spokesperson Rupesh Dubey said the results of previous Lok Sabha elections have not been in favour of his party, but this time it is in a strong position.

Exuding confidence in the party's victory, BJP spokesperson Neelu Sharma said, "We do not consider any election easy. But the equation in Rajnandgaon seat is in favour of BJP."

"There is resentment among Congressmen themselves about not giving opportunities to local leaders. We had won only one assembly seat of the eight assembly constituencies in 2018, but won Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat in 2019 by more than one lakh votes," he said.

A total of 18,68,021 voters, including 9,29,679 male, 9,38,334 female and 8 from third gender, will be able to exercise their franchise in this seat where 2,330 polling booths have been set up.

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Published 25 April 2024, 09:44 IST

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