Ex-Panchayat leader Tokhan Sahu pips BJP stalwarts from Chhattisgarh to become Minister of State

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Raipur, Jun 9 (PTI) Tokhan Sahu, a first-time Member of Parliament and a surprise addition to Narendra Modi's new cabinet, has been active in politics for the past three decades, though he has maintained a low profile throughout his career.

Sahu's political journey began in the early 1990s as a village panchayat representative. His rise to a Union minister's position has been unexpected, especially with the availability of other prominent leaders like Brijmohan Agrawal, Vijay Baghel, and Santosh Pandey from Chhattisgarh.

Sahu took oath as a Minister of State in the Union cabinet on Sunday.

Belonging to the influential Sahu backward community, which comprises about 14 per cent of Chhattisgarh's OBC population, Sahu is considered an undisputed leader within his community.

In his maiden Lok Sabha election, Sahu won the Bilaspur seat by a margin of 1,64,558 votes, defeating his challenger and the incumbent MLA Devendra Yadav of Congress.

Sahu secured 7,24,937 votes against Yadav's 5,60,379 votes, continuing the BJP's winning streak in Bilaspur since 1996.

Sahu, 55, began his political career in 1994 when he was elected unopposed as a 'panch' from Surajpura village in Lormi development block, now part of Mungeli district.

He progressed to become a Janpad member in 2005 and was elected as a representative in the Bilaspur district cooperative bank in 2012.

A significant political breakthrough for Sahu came in the 2013 Chhattisgarh assembly elections, where he won as an MLA from Lormi assembly seat, defeating the then-influential Congress MLA Dharmjeet Singh.

In the 2018 state elections, despite being renominated by the BJP, Sahu lost to Singh, who contested on a Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) ticket. Despite his defeat, Sahu remained an active political figure.

In the assembly elections of 2023, BJP MP Arun Sao, also from the Sahu community, won the Lormi seat and was appointed Deputy Chief Minister in Vishnu Deo Sai's BJP government.

Political observers suggest that Sao's support and the BJP's focus on caste equations played crucial roles in Sahu's appointment to Modi's council of ministers.

In the last assembly elections, six Sahu candidates from the BJP were elected, but only one was appointed to the state cabinet.

Speculation arose that either a Sahu or a Kurmi, another OBC community, would be selected as a Union minister from Chhattisgarh.

Vijay Baghel, a second-term MP from Durg and a prominent Kurmi leader, was also considered a strong candidate for a ministerial position in the Modi government.

In Modi's previous term, Renuka Singh from the Surguja seat served as Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs.

Singh was recently elected to the Chhattisgarh assembly. Vishnu Deo Sai served as Union Minister of State for Steel and Mines during Modi's first term (2014-2019). PTI TKP NSK