RAJNANDGAON: He has been on the road for the past 33 days, campaigning tirelessly to ensure a hat-trick poll win, but all the dirt, grime and dust of Chhattisgarh hasn\'t made Raman Singh look any less benign. He smiles warmly when asked about the prospects of him assuming a larger national role next year, but adds, \"It is too early to talk about it.\" The chief minister contends that his focus, at the moment, is his home turf where the rival Congress is battling to pin his arm onto the table in one of the most familiar combat sport in Indian politics: populism.
In the run-up to the two-phased elections to the state assembly and in the wake of the Congress promising free rice and free electricity for poor families if it comes to power in the state, chief minister Singh told ET in an interview that \"we are here to offer nutritional security to people, and not merely food security\". Singh, who became chief minister in 2003, fought the 2008 poll on the \"food security\" plank, weathering anti-incumbency and garnering 50 seats in the 90-member assembly. In the last poll, the Congress secured 38 and BSP two seats.
The 61-year-old, known for his close ties with BJP\'s PM candidate Narendra Modi, hopes that \"salt, rice and chana (chick peas)\" - which his government has been distributing among the poor at highly subsidised prices or for free - will offer him an edge in the face of the latest move by the Congress which made its pro-poor announcements in its manifesto. Chhattisgarh goes to polls on November 11 and 19.
The chief minister says he has multiple achievements to flaunt, including the much-lauded public distribution system (PDS) - renowned economist Jean Dreze has praised the state government for making the PDS system highly effective. Singh, meanwhile, also reels out data on the \"big leap\" in the power sector although he acknowledges that there is a huge slide in demand, making it difficult for the state to sell its surplus power as various companies and states scale down projects amid sluggish growth.
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