Raipur: Bhupesh Baghel, the man credited with leading the Congress to a landslide victory in Chhattisgarh, is set to be named as the next chief minister of the state on Saturday, sources have told News18.
The announcement will be made at the legislature party meeting after Baghel and the three other who were in the running arrive in the city after meeting Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
Gandhi had on Friday held a round of discussions with Baghel as well as TS Singh Deo, Tamradhwaj Sahu and Charan Das Mahant as the party was faced with a problem of plenty, as it did in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where it went with the old guard in Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot respectively.
The party's central observer for Chhattisgarh Mallikarjun Kharge, and the AICC in-charge of party affairs in the state, P L Punia, was also present in the meeting. Baghel, along with Deo, was seen as the frontrunner for the post.
Congress had ended the BJP's 15-year rule in Chhattisgarh in the recently concluded Assembly elections by winning 68 of the 90 seats, and Baghel as president of the state unit for the last five years was responsible for the turnaround in fortunes and had earned plaudits for the performance.
Baghel, known as a streetfighter for his aggressive persona, had taken the BJP regime head on in the run-up to the election, a marked departure from its earlier “soft” persona in the state.
The former minister in Digvijaya's Singh cabinet in Madhya Pradesh had to rebuild the party in the state from scratch after a fatal Maoist attack in Darba of Bastar district wiped out the entire party leadership in 2013.
"The major issue that the Congress faced in the party was that because certain leaders, including Jogi had gone soft on Raman Singh - the party was projected as the 'B-team of BJP'. Under the leadership of Baghel, the party was able to change this. We fought a number of court cases on different issues and that was also important in changing the perception of people," added the aide.
Baghel, a patron of Chhattisgarh Manav Kurmi Samaj since 1993, represents the Kurmi community that has large representation in the state. He was also able to deftly capitalise on the exit of Ajit Jogi from the Congress a year ago as the Congress made up for losing Dalit votes by walking away with almost 8-10% of the BJP’s Sahu-Kurmi and OBC votes.
Moreover, the Congress was able to capitalise on the ongoing agrarian distress in the state.