| Raman Singh speaks after taking oath in Raipur. (AFP)
Raipur, Dec. 7: Poor miners and farm labourers around Kavardha, a small semi-urban town in Rajnandgaon district, would queue patiently outside Raman Drug Store till their turn came for free treatment from the good doctor.
That was in the mid-eighties. Today, a phalanx of Union ministers and BJP honchos, led by deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani, were in attendance when he took the oath of office — as the second chief minister of Chhattisgarh. “I, Dr Raman Singh…,” he said, in a throwback to his doctor days, as he was sworn in by governor K.M. Seth at the police parade ground of Raipur.
It was his popularity as a doctor with a big heart that he had banked on to launch his political career. He was elected twice to the Assembly from his home constituency of Kavardha before stepping on to the national stage as an MP from Rajnandgaon in 1993. He lost in the next elections and promptly went back to his ayurvedic dispensary.
The goodwill he earned by doling out medicines stood him in good stead as he stormed back to Parliament in 1999 by defeating Motilal Vora in Rajnandgaon. The giant killer was rewarded with a ministry; Singh became the Union minister of state for commerce.
Now, the 51-year-old suave, soft-spoken doctor, who has been a quiet but determined crusader against “Jogi raj”, is back in his state again, to serve his people.
“My first priority will be to focus more on the interest of the farmers and common people. I will strive hard to end the poverty of the tribals and make them feel that the government belongs to them,” he said.
The chief minister also assured the people of Chhattisgarh that he would lift the climate of terror clamped by the former Congress regime.
“I would not have probably become chief minister had there been no Ajit Jogi. He pounced on my party, weaning away 12 of our MLAs. I was asked to take the challenge and reunite the party. I accepted it and so here I am in Jogi’s place,” he said with an impish smile.
When told that the swearing-in ceremony was not telecast in Raipur as the cable network, controlled by Akash channel owned by supporters of Ajit Jogi, had shut down operations, he had the crowd in splits by quipping: “We have been trained to take care of both akash and patal (heaven and hell).”
But coated in wit was his quiet determination — a streak that stands out in the new chief minister’s mental make-up. It was picked up as he followed his lawyer-father, Bindhharan Singh, to RSS camps from early in life.
“The Sangh coloured my views a lot. But when in administration, I will be more guided by the principles of governance,” Singh said today, perhaps aware that the BJP has come to power on a development plank, not riding a Hindutva wave.