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BJP’s Vishnu Deo Sai takes oath as Chhattisgarh Chief Minister; Arun Sao and Vijay Sharma new Deputy Chief Ministers

RAIPUR: Senior BJP leader and the tribal face of the party, Vishnu Deo Sai, on Wednesday took oath as the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, ten days after the saffron party returned to power after a gap of five years by unseating Congress in the assembly elections.

State BJP president Arun Sao and general secretary Vijay Sharma, both first-time MLAs, took oath as deputy chief ministers.

Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan administered the oath of office and secrecy to Sai, 59, and his two deputies during a grand swearing-in ceremony held at the Science College ground here attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari and Ramdas Athawale, and BJP president JP Nadda.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma, former Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and party leaders from other states attended the event which saw a gathering of around 50,000 people amid tight security.

From the Congress’ side, former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and ex-deputy CM TS Singh Deo were present.

Baghel shook hands with PM Modi on the stage after the event.

Speaking on the sidelines of the programme, senior BJP leader Narayan Chandel said the newly-anointed chief minister will soon expand the cabinet which will be a balanced one, hinting at caste equations to be taken into consideration.

As per norms, the Chhattisgarh cabinet can have a maximum of 13 ministers, including the chief minister.

Sao belongs to the influential OBC community while Sharma, known for his hardcore Hindutva stand, is a Brahmin.

Earlier in the day, Sai offered prayers at the Jagannath temple in Raipur ahead of his swearing-in ceremony.

He also paid tributes to freedom fighter Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by garlanding their statues at different places in the state capital, officials said.

He performed customary rituals at the Jagannath temple in the morning and prayed for peace, progress and prosperity in Chhattisgarh, a statement issued by the state public relations department said.

Later, Sai reached his residence in Purena area and sought his mother’s blessings. He and his wife Kaushalya Devi Sai performed ‘Navgrah’ puja at their house, the statement said Sai was picked as the BJP legislature party leader at a meeting of newly-elected MLAs held on Sunday in the presence of Central observers of the party.

He is the fourth chief minister of Chhattisgarh, which was created in the year 2000, and the first tribal CM from the BJP.

Tribals account for nearly 32 per cent of the total population of the state, making them the second most dominant social group after OBCs.

A former Union minister, Sai had also served as Chhattisgarh BJP president. He was elected as a Lok Sabha member on multiple terms. He enjoys a good rapport with RSS and is known for his humility and organisational skills.

Sai was elected as an MLA from the Kunkuri seat in the state’s Surguja division, which was swept by the BJP, in the assembly elections held last month.

The BJP won 54 out of 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, bringing down the Congress’ tally to 35 from 68 seats it had won in 2018. The Gondwana Gantantra Party managed to win one constituency.

Arun Sao, who took oath as one of the two deputy CMs, hails from the influential Sahu (Teli) OBC grouping. A lawyer-turned-politician, Sao won the Lormi assembly constituency by 45,891 votes against his nearest Congress rival Thaneshwar Sahu.

The 54-year-old is known as a non-controversial but assertive leader with no affiliation to any faction in the state BJP unit. Sao won the Bilaspur Lok Sabha constituency by 1.41 lakh votes in 2019.

Notably, Sao replaced Vishnu Deo Sai as the Chhattisgarh BJP chief a year before the assembly elections.

Vijay Sharma, another Deputy CM, is a Brahmin who is a vocal supporter of Hindutva. In the recent elections, he trounced influential Congress leader and then minister Mohammad Akbar in the Kawardha constituency by 39,592 votes.

Notably, Sharma (50) was arrested on the charges of rioting in connection with communal violence in Kawardha town in Kabirdham district in October 2021.

A communal clash had broken out over the removal of religious flags from a thoroughfare in Kawardha. Two days after the incident, some right-wing outfits took out a protest rally during which violence erupted.

BJP MP Santosh Pandey, former MP Abhishek Singh and Vijay Sharma were named in the FIR on charges of rioting, abetting the riot and others by the police in connection with the violence. Sharma was arrested and later released on bail.

Sharma started his political career as a joint convener of the Kawardha city unit of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS.

From 2004 to 2010, he headed the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morch’s (BJYM) Kabirdham district unit. He served as BJYM’s Chhattisgarh unit president from 2016 to 2020. In 2020, he was elected as a member of Kabirdham Zila Panchayat.

Source: Press Trust of India

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