The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP first list keeps veil on CM choice

New Delhi, Nov. 6: The BJP today held back from naming its chief ministerial candidate for Chhattisgarh when it released the first list of 72 nominees for the Assembly polls.

Sources said the top-post hopefuls, Union ministers Dilip Singh Judeo and Ramesh Bais and state BJP chief Raman Singh, were not mentioned in the list nor were they likely to find a place among the remaining 18.

“It is a well thoughtout strategy,” a party source said, according to whom Judeo, “more or less”, is the chosen one if the party wins the polls. But his name was not being made public so as “not to split the tribal and non-tribal votes”, the source added. Judeo is from a Thakur family that ruled the former Jaspur kingdom.

The BJP fears that chief minister Ajit Jogi could fan tribal sentiments if Judeo is formally placed on the poll centrestage. The Congress, it believes, could portray him as an “upper caste” leader out to upset the tribal-Dalit-backward caste coalition Jogi has claimed to have forged.

The other reason, the BJP discreetly mentioned, was to keep a window open for a post-poll arrangement with the Nationalist Congress Party, with whom a “strategic” alliance has been arrived at to defeat Jogi.

If the polls threw up a hung Assembly with the NCP as the balancing power, the option of conceding the chief minister’s post to Vidya Charan Shukla could not be ruled out, sources said.

The BJP’s earlier norm of not allowing MPs to contest Assembly polls was given the go-by after Madhya Pradesh MP Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who is also party general secretary, was pitted against chief minister Digvijay Singh.

So, this argument does not hold good for Rajya Sabha MP Judeo and his Lok Sabha counterparts Bais and Singh.

Today’s list has 21 sitting legislators while the remaining are fresh faces.

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