The BJP recorded an easy victory in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh in the recently concluded State Legislative Assembly elections bagging 54 seats out of the total 90, whereas only 46 were needed for government formation.
Among the list of wins on the BJP side, the unexpected triumph of Prabodh Minj, a tribal Christian, in the reserved Lundra assembly constituency was noteworthy for several reasons. First, Minj was the only Christian candidate that the BJP fielded. Second, Minj’s candidate did not come easy.
The BJP known for its stance against alleged religious conversions to Christianity in the central part of India, the party chose Minj strategically, overcoming internal dissent.
Lundra (ST) constituency, traditionally a Congress stronghold since 2008, witnessed a major shift as Minj, a two-time Mayor of the Ambikapur municipal corporation, secured victory with an impressive margin of 24,128 votes, triumphing over the incumbent Congress MLA, Dr. Pritam Ram. The region, characterised by substantial Christian demographics, became a focal point in this electoral drama, with Minj's community outreach and popularity playing a key role.
Minj, a seasoned politician, has an interesting political journey that began with the Indian National Congress before he joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 2003. Later he aligned with the BJP bringing a distinctive narrative to the forefront.
Minj's political journey is one of strategic shifts and ideological transitions. He began as a prominent leader within the Indian National Congress, but recalibrated his political allegiance in 2003, joining the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). However, his involvement with the NCP was short-lived, as Minj, hailing from the Surguja region, swiftly swung to the BJP. The ramifications of this shift were substantial in 2004 when, having joined the BJP ranks, Minj contested the Ambikapur Municipal Corporation election and secured the sought-after position of Mayor—an office he held for a decade. His leadership as the Mayor of Ambikapur, was marked by the successful initiation of cleanliness drives, thus adding to his appeal among voters. In 2019, Minj further fortified his political standing by contesting municipal elections once again, securing a seat as a corporator.
For the BJP, the decision to field a Christian candidate, in a party known for its very public stance against religious conversions, meant initial internal resistance. However, the party leadership stood firmly behind Minj, trusting his ability to deliver.
Om Mathur, Chhattisgarh election in-charge for BJP, defended the selection of Minj, emphasising the criteria of 'merit and winnability' in candidate selection. Minj during his outreach reportedly visited many remote villages that were seldom touched by political campaigns since Independence.