| Judeo arrives at the hotel to attend the meeting of newly-elected BJP legislators. (PTI)
Raipur, Dec. 5: Dilip Singh Judeo has preserved his manhood but Raman Singh has emerged as the man of the moment in Chhattisgarh.
Singh, an ayurvaid-turned-politician, was chosen today to replace Ajit Jogi, setting off fireworks in the chief minister-designate’s camp and an explosion of resentment among supporters of Judeo, the man who would have been king but for the cash-on-camera scandal.
As crackers burst at the Piccadilly Hotel here minutes after BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu announced the election of Singh as the legislature party leader, the acolytes of Judeo, who had vowed to shave off his moustache if the Congress returned to power, shouted outside: “Jogi was not all that bad.”
After a 40-minute meeting with the legislators, the soft-spoken Singh, who is also the state BJP president, said he would meet the governor and stake claim to form the government. Singh is likely to be sworn in on December 7 when deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is scheduled to be here.
Like his partner-in-victory in the neighbourhood, Uma Bharti, Singh took care not to time the coronation with December 6, the Babri demolition anniversary.
Singh said he is considering a proposal to appoint a deputy chief minister. If the post is cleared, a tribal will be picked. As many as 26 of the BJP’s 50 legislators in the 90-member Assembly are tribals — the single largest bloc in the state and a loyal constituency of Judeo.
Singh, a Rajput, is also expected to offer several berths in his ministry to the supporters of Judeo and Ramesh Bais, a Union minister who was also in the running to be chief minister.
Asked how he would tackle the challenges, the medicine man in Singh replied: “If you know the disease, the treatment is not that difficult.”
The diagnosis should not have been too difficult, considering the symptoms on display before the meeting began in the afternoon. Judeo, who reached the venue at 4.10 pm, was quickly mobbed by his supporters. “Mardana (manly) Judeo, we are with you,” the crowd shouted as their leader was escorted into the hotel.
Asked if he was happy, Judeo said: “Immensely.” The reply sparked an impromptu debate among BJP leaders present in the lobby whether he meant what he said or was being sarcastic.
Before the question could be settled, the meeting began and the cream and red precincts of the hotel became the temporary power centre of the state.
Almost the entire state party leadership had been busy since the morning sounding the newly-elected MLAs on their choice for chief minister. The party had to choose between Bais and Singh as Judeo had been ruled out after the scandal broke.
The scales tilted in favour of Singh after Naidu and agriculture minister Rajnath Singh arrived here. They carried a message that Singh, who had given up his slot in the Union ministry to take charge of the party in the state, was the central leadership’s choice.
Bais was not keen to lead the party, which was in shambles after Jogi managed to wean away 12 BJP legislators. Singh, who has a clean image and has considerable influence in the urban areas, had taken up the challenge and put the party back on its feet.
Singh, known as a giant killer after he defeated Congress heavyweight Motilal Vora in the last parliamentary poll, will be the first elected chief minister of Chhattisgarh. Jogi had become the chief minister on the strength of Congress’ numbers when Madhya Pradesh was bifurcated and Chhattisgarh was born.