Who is Vishnu Deo Sai? Rise of Tribal Leader From Village Sarpanch to Chhattisgarh CM

Ending days of suspense, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday picked Vishnu Deo Sai as the new Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. Sai was elected BJP’s legislature party leader during the saffron party’s key meeting of newly-elected 54 MLAs in Raipur today. BJP registered a landslide victory in the recently concluded Chhattisgarh Assembly election 2023, by winning 54 of the 90 seats in the state.

“With all honesty, I will work for ‘Sabka Vishwas’ and the promises made to the people of Chhattisgarh under ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’ will be fulfilled. As a CM of the state, we will try to fulfil the promises. The first work will be to give 18 lakh ‘Awas’ to the people…I would also like to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP Chief JP Nadda for their trust in me,” the CM-designate said in his first media interaction after the big announcement.

Moreover, the BJP is likely to name two deputy CMs for Chhattisgarh. The names Arun Sao and Vijay Sharma are being considered for the post, sources told News18.

Vishnu Deo Sai: BJP’s Pick For Chhattisgarh CM

Sai, 59, will be the first tribal Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh after former CM Ajit Jogi. He comes from the influential Sahu (Teli) community which has a sizable presence in the Durg, Raipur and Bilaspur divisions. Sai is seen as one of the most senior tribal leaders in Chhattisgarh.

Born on 21 February 1964, Sai comes from a farming family in Bagia village in the state’s Jashpur district. He studied in a government school in Kunkuri and went to Ambikapur for graduation but quit studies midway and returned to his village in 1988.

He began his political career in 1989, when was elected as a ‘panch’ of Bagia village panchayat. The next year became the sarpanch unopposed.

A prominent figure in the BJP, Sai has headed the party’s Chhattisgarh unit three times, displaying the central leadership’s faith in his organisational skills. He rose through the party ranks and became a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first Council of Ministers after the BJP formed its full majority government at the Centre in 2014. He is also considered to be close to former Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh.

It is said it was BJP stalwart late Dilip Singh Judev who encouraged him to enter electoral politics in 1990. In the same year, Sai was elected as MLA for the first time on a BJP ticket from Tapkara (in Jashpur district) in undivided Madhya Pradesh. He retained the seat in the 1993 assembly polls.

In 1998, he unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls from the adjoining Pathalgaon seat. Later, he was elected as MP from Raigarh Lok Sabha constituency four times in a row – 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.

Though the BJP fielded him in the 2003 and 2008 Assembly elections from Pathalgaon in Chhattisgarh, which came into existence as a separate state on November 1, 2000, he lost on both occasions.

After the BJP formed its government at the Centre in 2014 under the leadership of PM Modi, Sai was made Minister of State for Steel and Mines. He was among the then 10 sitting BJP MPs in Chhattisgarh who were denied tickets for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The tribal politician served as the BJP’s Chhattisgarh chief from 2006 to 2010 and again from January to August 2014. After the BJP lost power in the state in 2018, he was again given the responsibility to lead the party in Chhattisgarh in 2020. He was replaced with Arun Sao, an OBC leader, in 2022, just a year ahead of the Assembly polls.

Ahead of the polls in November this year, Sai was named a member of the BJP national executive in July. He was fielded from Kunkuri (Jashpur district) in the elections which he won by defeating Congress’ sitting MLA UD Minj by a margin of 25,541 votes.

‘Bada Aadmi’ With Rich Political Lineage

His late grandfather, Budhnath Sai was a nominated MLA from 1947 to 1952. His late ‘bade pitaji’ (elder brother of his father), Narhari Prasad Sai was a member of the Jan Sangh (BJP’s predecessor) and served as a two-term MLA (1962-67 and 1972-77) and was elected as an MP (1977-79) and served as a Minister of State in the Janata Party government. Another elder brother of his father, the late Kedarnath Sai, was also a Jan Sangh member and served as MLA from Tapkara (1967-72).

Despite inheriting a rich political legacy from his family and holding key portfolios when he was a Union minister, the tribal leader is known for his humility, down-to-earth nature, dedication to work and determination to achieve goals.

Incidentally, addressing a poll rally in the Kunkuri constituency last month, Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah had urged voters to elect Sai (59), promising to make the latter a “big man” (bada Aadmi Bana Denge) if the party comes back to power in the state.

Chhattisgarh Election 2023

The BJP on December 3 wrested power from the Congress in Chhattisgarh, winning 54 of the 90 seats in the state assembly, while the grand old party got 35 seats. The saffron party, which suffered a huge setback in Chhattisgarh’s tribal-dominated assembly seats in the 2018 polls, put up a good show this time winning 17 of the 29 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.

In the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly, 29 seats are reserved for the ST category, which comprises around 32 per cent of the state’s population. Of the 29 reserved seats,  BJP won 17 tribal-dominated seats.

According to poll experts, the public rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda in the tribal belt, the launch of the party’s two parivartan yatras from tribal pockets and pre-poll promises worked in the party’s favour in the Adivasi belt.

BJP’s senior tribal leaders who have this time won from seats reserved for the ST community are Union minister Renuka Singh (Bharatpur-Sonhat), MP Gomti Sai (Pathalgaon), former Union minister Vishnu Deo Sai (Kunkuri), former state ministers Ramvichar Netam (Ramanujganj), Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Lata Usendi (Kondagaon).

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