One of the most high-profile seats in Chhattisgarh—Raipur is witnessing an interesting battle in the Lok Sabha elections. Congress has given ticket to Pramod Dubey, the Mayor of Raipur. However, after Congress announced his candidature, the BJP decided to field Sunil Soni, a former Mayor of Raipur.
BJP’s senior leader Ramesh Bais has represented the seat, seven times—six times in a row. Yet, the party denied him ticket in this election.
Though the BJP has said that it has replaced all the Lok Sabha candidates in Chhattisgarh and given opportunity to new faces, Bais was a veteran. He had first become a Union minister in former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in 1998.
On Raipur seat, he had defeated stalwarts like SC Shukla and Vidyacharan Shukla in the past. The denial of ticket has caused resentment among Bais’ supporters.
As Raipur seat has gone to BJP for several elections, Congress has tried to cash in on the acceptability (and popularity) of Pramod Dubey in the state capital.
Dubey had successfully contested the civic election and became Mayor even though BJP had won the majority in the municipal polls in the city.
BJP candidate Sunil Soni who held the post earlier, is no lightweight either. Both are well-known faces and have a direct connect with the citizens.
Congress leaders feel that public sentiment is still the same as it was a couple of months back when it had won the Assembly election in Chhattisgarh.
In fact, Congress had done exceedingly well in Raipur in Assembly polls. It got around 1 lakh votes more than BJP. The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) too had shown its presence on many seats.
BJP is betting on its past record in Raipur. In the last Lok Sabha election (2014), Ramesh Bais had defeated Congress’ senior leader Satyanarayan Sharma by over 1.70 lakh votes, during the Modi wave.
Earlier, in 2009, Bhupesh Baghel who is now chief minister, had contested from Raipur and had lost to BJP’s Ramesh Bais by around 40,000 votes. It was still a tight election. BJP has had huge margin of victories here in previous polls.
Historically, Raipur was a seat that sent Congress leaders to Parliament. Jan Sangh wasn’t as strong here.
In 1971, VC Shukla had won from Raipur, defeating BJS’ BR Patel. Then, in 1977, Shukla had lost during the Janata wave. Lok Dal’s Purushottam Kaushik had defeated him.
In 1980, Congress’ Keyur Bhsuhan defeated Pawan Diwan (independent). Bhushan was again elected from Raipur in 1984, when he defeated Ramesh Bais by over 1 lakh votes.
But in 1989, Bais had tasted victory, defeating Keyur Bhushan by around 85,000 votes. In 1991, VC Shukla contested on Congress ticket and defeated Bais by just around 1,000 votes.
Since then, there was no looking back for Bais. His winning streak continued. He defeated Dhanendra Sahu in 1996. Even VC Shukla lost to him in 1998. Then, he defeated Jugal Kishore Sahu and SC Shukla in 1999 and 2004 elections.
Two more wins made it seven victories for him from this constituency. Yet, there was a feeling that Bais may not get the ticket.
BJP had sensed that the citizens wanted change and he was no longer seen as an active MP in the constituency.
Right now, Congress is likely to get more Brahmin votes because of Dubey. Similarly, Soni’s candidature will draw trading community towards BJP though the latter has lesser hold in rural parts of the constituency. However, it is surely going to be an interesting election in Raipur.