The recently concluded Chhattisgarh assembly election of 2023 has witnessed many upsets for the sitting Congress ministers, a number of whom have lost their respective seats. One such major upset for the Congress party occurred on the Sitapur Vidhan Sabha seat of tribal (Janjati)-dominated Sarguja division, where the former Congress minister, Amarjit Bhagat, had locked horns with a retired Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commando, Ram Kumar Toppo.
Toppo, who took voluntary retirement to contest the election in August this year, just two months prior to the elections, has defeated the Congress heavyweight by 17610 votes. His triumph from the Janjati-dominated seat of Sitapur, a citadel for Congress for decades, is significant in many ways.
Since it came into existence in 1951, the Sitapur constituency has been considered a bastion of the grand old party, from which as many as 12 Congress candidates have registered victories in the past, while the rest of the time the people of the constituency voted for the independent candidates, sending them to the assembly three times.
These records are testaments to the fact that prior to Toppo, every BJP candidate who had contested from Sitapur had only tasted defeat, making it one of the toughest seats to conquer in northern Chhattisgarh for the Saffron party.
Toppo creates history
Though, despite fighting against all the odds, the ex-CRPF commando has emerged victorious by securing a whopping 50.36 percent of the total votes polled. According to the figures released by the Election Commission of India (ECI), Ram Kumar Toppo has secured a total of 83088 votes in his favour, defeating Bhagat, the tourism, food and consumer protection minister of Baghel’s government, who got only 65928 votes.
Astonishingly, Toppo, who served in the paramilitary force for 12 years, only joined the party on September 01, suggesting a huge anti-incumbency wave against the sitting minister, Bhagat. Speaking with the media, the former commando, who also received the prestigious presidential medal in March this year, said, “The Congress had held the Sitapur constituency for 20 years. The people of my constituency knew that I was a part of the CRPF and was also involved in social work. They decided to give me a chance, so I took a leap into politics.
It is pertinent to mention here that Ram Kumar Toppo, while in service, had also served in insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir, where he was a part of the team that neutralised as many as three hardcore terrorists who tried to disrupt local body elections in the valley in 2018.
Chhattisgarh Assembly Election 2023
It is to be noted that the BJP made a grand comeback in Janjati-dominated Chhattisgarh, where the saffron party led by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, won 54 seats, securing a thumping majority in the state assembly and ending its five-year drought.
The run-up to the election witnessed a fierce campaign by both political streams. While the Congress party led by Bhupesh Baghel was banking on schemes commenced by Baghel-led government and issues like caste census and alleged corporatization, the BJP, on the other hand, was seen raising issues of wide-scale corruption, illegal conversion, and growing cases of communal flare-ups in the Janjati-dominated state.
It is worth mentioning here that a number of Congress heavyweights, including state Congress president Deepak Baij, lost their seats in the elections. The other prominent leaders who lost the election include Deputy Chief Minister TS Singhdeo, along with Ravindra Chaubey, Shiv Dahariya, Jay Singh Agarwal, Tamradhwaj Sahu, Rudra Guru and Mohan markam.