The BJP on Sunday picked up a prominent tribal leader and former union minister, Vishnu Deo Sai, to become the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh after he was elected as leader of the legislative party during a meeting of 54 newly-elected MLAs. The BJP, however, is expected to decide CMs for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which it also won comfortably, over the next two days.

The move to put Sai, 59, on the saddle assumes importance ahead of Lok Sabha elections as Scheduled Tribes (ST) constitute approximately 8.6 per cent of the country’s population, numbering around 10.4 crore. Tribals, or Adivasis, account for nearly 32 per cent of the State’s population and are socially dominant after the OBCs. The party also intends to capitalise on Sai’s elevation in adjoining states, especially Jharkhand, which too has a sizeable ST population.

The BJP may have officially decided Sai’s name on Sunday, but Union Home Minister Amit Shah, during a political rally in the Kunkuri constituency last month, had promised that the tribal leader would become a “big man” if the party occupies power, provided the voters elect him.

“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,” said the MLA from Jashpur district, Sai, at Raipur. A resident of Bagia village in the Kansabel area near Kunkuri, the CM designate belongs to a family of farmers.

The BJP got a decisive mandate in Chhattisgarh, largely because it swept the tribal belt of Sarguja and Bastar, clinching 54 of the total 90 seats to oust Congress, which managed 35 constituencies.

He became an MLA for the first time in 1990, which was before Madhya Pradesh was bifurcated to carve out Chhattisgarh. Later, he went on to become MP in 1999, and a year later, he became the state party president. He was against elected to Lok Sabha in 2009 and in 2014, from Raigarh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made him a Minister of State

Sai personifies humility and has been a party man, which is one of the reasons BJP leaders believe that he was rewarded with the CMship besides being an Advasi.