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The other Maoist bastion

Rajnandgaon,voting along with Bastar,is as severely affected,is ‘easier to access’,has Raman Singh contesting.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Rajnandgaon |
November 11, 2013 5:04:12 am

On July 12,2009,Maoists killed Rajnandgaon police superintendent V K Chaubey and 28 other cops in probably their biggest ever attack in terms of duration and geographical extent,the ambush spanning 10 hours along a stretch of 30 km. Chaubey remains the only IPS officer killed in Chhattisgarh and among a handful in India,while his IG had a narrow escape in the attack termed an “area ambush” by the Maoists.

In the space taken by Bastar and its seven districts as a site of Maoist violence,however,Rajnandgaon remains overshadowed though it is among Chhattisgarh’s eight and India’s 26 severely left-wing extremism-hit districts. It also shares a long and porous border with Gadchiroli,Maharashtra’s only severely affected district,and sees frequent Maoist movement between the states.

In the Bastar districts,the administration has not been able to reach much of the area and low voting looks likely. In the six constituencies of Rajnandgaon,officers claim to have reached every village to spread electoral awareness and expect a record turnout.

Leading the campaign is IAS officer Priyanka Shukla,zilla panchayat CEO. At its heart is a pledge she wrote for all citizens,PRATIGYA or “people in Rajnandgaon affirmatively take initiative to generate youth awareness” (about elections). She has created a Facebook page,posted cartoons and made videos,and visited people urging them to vote. She cites an example: “Residents of Chando (a village in the area attacked in 2009) had announced a poll boycott after the Maoist appeal. But we persuaded them and now they have taken a PRATIGYA pledge.”

In 2008,voting in some booths was cancelled due to bogus polling. Polling teams had claimed to have recorded voting in some of these booths,but election officials later visited these villages and found the residents had not been marked with indelible ink.

Raman’s launchpad

Rajnandgoan is also the region from where Chief Minister Raman Singh rose. Initially a lesser known BJP man in Madhya Pradesh politics,he shot into prominence when he defeated former chief minister Motilal Vora in the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat in 1999,thanks to major infighting in the Congress. The party rewarded him with a ministerial birth at the Centre,then made him state BJP president just before the 2003 polls. After then BJP chief minister probable Dilip Singh Judeo was caught in a sting operation allegedly accepting a bribe,Raman Singh got the post and has faced no challenge since.

This year,in Rajnandgaon assembly seat,he faces Alka Mudaliyar,the wife of Darbha victim Uday Mudaliyar. The Congress has publicly asked him not to contest against Alka as a mark of respect for the deceased,but he has gone ahead. Vora,his aides say,has not yet forgotten the defeat. In a rally on Friday,he and Rahul Gandhi exhorted voters to defeat Singh. The electoral interest,however,seems limited only to the dent Alka can make in Singh’s last victory margin: some 30,000 votes.

The politics

Of the six seats in Rajnandgaon,the BJP has four. Mohla-Manpur is reserved for STs,Dongargarh for SCs. The contest in some seats is triangular as the Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch’s candidates have considerable support here,while the presence of rebels could swing a number of votes. In Khujji,BJP rebel Rajinder Pal Bhatia,a powerful three-term MLA,is contesting as an independent. “I have not betrayed the party,the party betrayed me,” he says. “The BJP can’t win from here. My direct contest is with the Congress candidate now.” In the Congress,Tej Kunwar Netam from Mohala-Manpur faces resistance from within. Sitting BJP MLA Kheduram Sahu,who was denied the ticket to Dongargaon,too has gone against his party.

Total assets

Rs 5.61 crore

(Up from Rs 1.04 crore in 2008; current breakup is self over Rs 3.70 crore,wife over Rs 1.90 crore)

Movable assets

Rs 2.28 crore

(Self nearly Rs 90 lakh including Rs 24 lakh of Hindu united family; wife Rs 1.38 crore)

Cash: Self Rs 75,550,wife Rs 42,800

Bank deposits: Self Rs 45.21 lakh,wife Rs 37.04 lakh

Shares & debentures: Self Rs 61,000,wife Rs 44,000

Jewellery: Self Rs 28.25 lakh in gold and silver,wife Rs 96.80 lakh in gold,silver and diamonds

Arms: Pistol,self,Rs 41,000

Immovable assets

Rs 3.33 crore

(Self nearly Rs 2.80 crore including Rs 87 lakh of HUF; wife Rs 53.50 lakh)

Land: Self 7 acres worth Rs 44.50 lakh; HUF nearly 15 acres worth Rs 30 lakh,wife 30 acres worth Rs 53.50 lakh

Houses: Rs 1.82 crore (self); Rs 53 lakh (Hindu undivided family). Houses measure 2,400 sq ft and 8,635 sq ft

Liability: Rs 28.15 lakh,self,pending home loan

Income

Rs 32.26 lakh

Tax returns 2012-13 (Rs 2.55 lakh is Hindu undivided family income)

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