Can BJP’s ‘brand Raman’ convert crowds into votes?

June 26th, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Raipur, June 26 (IANS) Chhattisgarh’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is upbeat over the popular response Chief Minister Raman Singh is drawing as he tours the state ahead of assembly elections. But the big question is: can Raman Singh convert the crowds into votes? The state goes to the polls in November to elect a new 90-member legislature. The BJP is betting on the clean image of the Ayurvedic doctor-turned-politician Raman Singh to pull off a second straight win in the mineral-rich state.

Having named him on Dec 7, 2003, as head of Chhattisgarh’s first BJP government, the party is now busy selling “brand Raman”.

“The party is heavily banking on `brand Raman’. A BJP victory will be credited to Raman Singh,” a top source in the party with links to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) told IANS.

“We have been selling ‘brand Raman’ in a market of about 20 million people since May 23″ when BJP leader L.K. Advani flagged off a “development march” by the chief minister from the Maoist stronghold of Dantewada, the source said. The chief minister will go around all 18 districts.

The tour ends Sunday in the state’s northern Jashpur district. By then he would have addressed 1,200 big and small meetings all over the state.

But can the chief minister convert the crowds thronging his meetings to vote for the BJP? In other words, can Raman Singh do a Narendra Modi in Chhattisgarh? This then is the challenge, everyone admits.

“The 2,600-km development march is basically to give an account of what my government has done since December 2003,” Raman Singh told IANS. “I am presenting details about development works before the people.”

“I believe the BJP has delivered,” Singh added. “See the people’s response. Everyone wants to shake hands with me… males, females, the young, the elderly. It shows people’s response and faith in the government.”

But Congress state unit general secretary Ramesh Warlyani dismisses the claims.

“The BJP’s tenure is marred by corruption, failure of law and order and a loot of public money by BJP leaders. The development march will prove to be the last laugh for the BJP before the assembly elections.”

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