The odds were stacked against him. But Ayurvedic doctor-turned-politician Raman Singh, known as "Mr Clean" in Chhattisgarh, proved his worth to pull off a hat-trick for the BJP -- single-handedly.The 61-year-old Singh, who launched his political career in 1983 as a councillor in his home town Kawardha, has never looked back since December 2003 when he led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power.In 2003, he delivered a stunning defeat to the Ajit Jogi-led Congress government in the first ever election in the state which was carved out of Madhya Pradesh three years previously.Raman Singh, admirers say, is a sober and accessible politician who has ruled the hearts and minds of many in Chhattisgarh, a state of 2.55 crore people with a fifth of India's estimated coal and iron ore reserves but steeped in poverty.In a rarity for a politician, that too after a decade in office, Raman Singh has only a handful of hardcore critics in the state.Ahead of this election, he overcame a rare show of unity displayed by the otherwise perennially warring Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh."It was only Raman Singh's image, his popularity and easy acceptability among the people that helped the BJP to register a third successive victory," Subhash Rao, one of his key aides, told IANS.
Rao, who travelled with Raman Singh during his 6,000-km plus 'Vikas Yatra' covering all 90 constituencies, said: "He is a large-hearted man. He hates cheap politics."A father of a son and daughter (the son assists him in politics), Raman Singh is widely seen as a workaholic.Even Congress politicians have a sneaking admiration for Raman Singh.A senior Congress leader and a former minister told IANS: "He is a big asset for the BJP. Voters rooted for him although Maoists wiped out almost the entire Congress leadership, a classic case of security failure."
Raman Singh, however, did not always have it easy.Many had thought in 2003 that Raman Singh lacked popular base and had become chief minister only due to luck.Having been elected in 1990 for the first time as a legislator in unpided Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh was a minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government when he was moved to Raipur.One of his biggest success was unveiling a food security act in 2008 that ensured basic food to 60 percent of the population. It also helped the BJP to expand its base to rural areas.
Raman Singh was also a votary of infrastructure and industralization. He blunted criticism over his failure to check the Maoists by saying that the rebels were a national problem, not Chhattisgarh's headache alone.The man proved pundits wrong with successive election victories although the BJP in Chhattisgarh is dominated by arrogant ministers and legislators -- casting doubts on the party's electoral prospects.To add to his woes, a BJP star in the state, Dilip Singh Judeo, was caught on camera accepting bribe at a hotel in the national capital.No wonder, all rival groups in the Congress came together at the call of party vice president Rahul Gandhi to oust the BJP.But even the unity of Ajit Jogi, Charandas Mahant, Motilal Vora and Ravindra Choubey -- the 'dadas' of the Congress in Chhattisgarh -- failed to derail a silent pro-Raman Singh wave.Did Narendra Modi's campaign help Raman Singh? Raman Singh's supporters say Modi could have contributed to the BJP win but the main credit must go to the chief minister. "Yes, Modi was a bonus. But Raman Singh is the reason why BJP won," said a long-time loyalist.