With Raman Singh out, Rajnandgaon loses VIP touch

Without BJP heavyweight and former chief minister Raman Singh, the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat has lost its VIP status.

The BJP has fielded Santosh Pandey, a new face with a strong RSS background, to contest from this seat dropping Singh's son and sitting MP from here, Abhishek Singh.

Out of the contest, sources close to Singh say that he and his family are giving cold vibes even as the former chief minister is seen with his party leaders at most major poll campaigns in the state.

Singh, who is a sitting MLA from the Rajnandgaon Assembly seat, was keen on contesting the parliamentary election from the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat. But the BJP leadership denied him a ticket and also dropped his son Abhishek to bring in novelty.

The BJP had suffered a massive drubbing in the Assembly polls five months ago and lost power to the Congress after remaining at the helm of affairs in the state under Singh for 15 years.

Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha constituency is composed of eight assembly segments — six of which are currently with the Congress, one with Ajit Jogi's Janata Chhattisgarh Congress (JCC) and one with the BJP.

The BJP, which had won four seats that come under Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha constituency in 2013 Assembly polls, lost three to the Congress in 2018 Assembly polls. Singh was the only BJP candidate who could retain his seat in 2018.

Rajnanadgaon Lok Sabha seat is dominated by Sahu community followed by Kurmis, tribals and other communities.

With Singh and his son out of the fray from this constituency, the Congress is hoping to wrest the seat from the BJP this election.

Against BJP's Pandey, the Congress has fielded Bhola Ram Sahu, who comes from a farmer's family and has been a two-term MLA in the past.

Pandey, who is a general secretary of the BJP state unit, was defeated twice in the Assembly polls by Congress candidates.

But the BJP feels that Pandey being a political novice will not matter as the Lok Sabha election is about Modi's leadership.

Rajnandgaon is set to go to polls along with Mahasammund and Kanker in the second phase of parliamentary elections on Thursday.

This Lok Sabha seat has been won by the Congress nine times since 1957 while the erstwhile Janata Party has won it once and the BJP six times.

Singh had won from this constituency, defeating Congress heavyweight Motilal Vora, in the 1999 general elections.

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