Chhattisgarh Congress chief and an MLA from Patan area falling under Durg district, Bhupesh Baghel, assumed his charge as the third chief Minister of the state and the first elected CM of Chhattisgarh in Raipur on December 17. Baghel carries several feathers of glory in his cap. He is the man who led the campaign ‘Vikas Khojo’ that brought the otherwise high-flying ruling BJP on the ground in this set of Assembly elections. He has also the credit of uniting the party in the state. The oath of ceremony was taken by Baghel in the presence of the state governor and former chief minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and former chief minister, Dr Raman Singh.
He and his counterparts in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh took oath as chief ministers in three back-to-back ceremonies on the day, seen as a mega show of Opposition unity ahead of the national elections next year.
Bhupesh Baghel has already served as minister in the state cabinet led by the former chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh and then in the newly carved out Chhattisgarh government under the then Chief Minister of the state, Ajit Jogi, despite his having lots of differences with Jogi.
Inn fact there was almost complete washout of Chhattisgarh Congress in 2013 during a massacre conducted by the Naxals in Bastar. It was then Baghel emerged as a big leader who was later made the deputy leader of opposition in the state and then the state chief of Congress Party. The credit of uniting the workers of the party across the state goes to Baghel. In fact, he is known to be a hard task master who through campaigns like CD exposure of a strong minister of BJP government and then compelling the Raman Singh government bite dust through his ‘Vikas Khojo’ campaign across the state.
Not to mention that Chhattisgarh was the last of the three states where Congress-led governments’ Chief Ministers names were declared by the party high command. The party president, Rahul Gandhi had sought the opinin of 2 lakh party workers in all the three states through an app, Shakti. Baghel’s name emerged as the most popular in the verdict. TS Singh Deo, the party MLA from Ambikapur and one of the richest MLAs of the country was arch rival of Baghel. Singh Deo’s claim for fame this time was the preparation of manifesto which was hailed by even the hard critics of the party in the state. Impressed by the manifesto prepared by him, Rahul Gandhi has asked his research team to work on preparation of election manifesto for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections by taking a cue from the same as prepared for Chhattisgarh state by Singh Deo. Despite this, Singh Deo lost the coveted post as he was having a grey area, Singh Deo is supposed to have business ties with Adani, who is very close to BJP-led government at the Centre.
Other contenders for the post of CM in the state included Tamradhwaj Sahu, the only MP of the party within the state, Charan Das Mahant. However, they lost the battle somewhere due to some reason or the other.
Compared to the two other states – Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – where the Congress fell a shade short of target and had to take the help of Mayawati to reach majority, Chhattisgarh was a shock defeat for the party. Where the BJP was hoping for a fourth term for Raman Singh — one of its most popular Chief Ministers – the party could get only 15 of the state’s 90 seats, way behind 68 of the Congress.
Raman Singh was individually a great BJP leader who was without any blame on his face for the three successive state government led by him. The only problem was that the corrupt bureaucrats often misguided him and kept him at a distance from ground realities. Raman Singh was often known as Chaurwale Baba for a simple reason that he gave the real price of paddy of as grown by the farmers within the state which is popular as ‘Rice bowl of the country’. Raman Singh had agreed to increase the minimum support price of paddy at Rs 2100 per ton which was severely opposed by farmers. It was then the Congress party promised the MSP as high as Rs 2500 per ton and which finally led to its victory within the state. Second big promise made by the Congress party in its manifesto was waiving of the entire farm loan taken by farmers from various banks. These two big promises helped tremendously Congress win brownie points in the recently concluded Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh.
Senior Congress leader TS Singh Deo, the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, had pointed out that no party with divisions in its ranks, can achieve such a victory. BJP was having its CM candidate in Raman Singh unlike Congress party. Still, it failed utterly in selection of candidates.
Singh Deo and Baghel, two of the four contenders for the top job, had met Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on December 15. The other two were Tamradhwaj Sahu, the party’s lone parliamentarian in the state, and senior leader Charan Das Mahant. Several rounds of discussion were held, at the end of which, the party chief tweeted the image with a quote.
Immediately after being appointed as CM of Chhattisgarh, Baghel has made some of the big promises to the electorates of his state. First, he said that the entire farm loan given in the state will be waived off and a decision to this effect will be taken in the very first meeting of the yet to be constituted state cabinet itself. Secondly, the Congress government will consider halving the power bill for the people in the state which was also one of the promises made by the party in the election manifesto. Thirdly, he made it clear that the new government will not work with any political vendetta in mind. However, he made it clear that his government will go for investigation into the Jheeram incident, in which a number of heavyweight Congrtess leaders in the state were killed by Naxals in a remote Bastar village in 2013, as it was directly related to the party’s sentiments.
The two aspirants of CM in the state, Tamradhawaj Sahu and TS Singh Deo also took the oath of cabinet ministers in the state along with Baghel on the occasion. Yet another aspirant Charandas Mahant was missing. Baghel said he is also working on setting up food processing parks in various parts of the state.
On the other, new Madhya Pradesh chief Minister, Kamal Nath signed a document for waiving off the farmers; loan in the state, immediately after assuming his charge.