Raipur: Bhupesh Baghel, the man credited with leading the Congress to a landslide victory in Chhattisgarh, was on Sunday named the heartland state’s CM, ending the five-day suspense.
In first comments after being announced CM, Baghel said his priorities would be farm loan waiver and an investigation into the 2013 Naxal attack in Bastar district which wiped out the Congress’ entire state leadership.
Baghel is set to be sworn-in on Monday while the rest of the cabinet will be announced later.
The announcement was made by the Congress on its official Twitter handle even when the meeting of the Legislature Party was on in Raipur.
Soon after the announcement, Baghel spelled out the priorities for his government and said that the problem of Naxalism needs to be solved.
“The problem of Naxalism is a very serious problem. Nobody can solve it instantly. They have a very strong hold. We will be successful in eliminating them if firm steps are taken with the support of the people in the Naxal-affected areas,” he said.
The party also announced that the new Congress government in the state would work on equality, transparency and integrity and its first task would be to declare a loan waiver for farmers of the state.
"Celebrations are in order in Chhattisgarh as Bhupesh Baghel is appointed CM. We wish him the best as he forms a government of equality, transparency and integrity starting off with loan waiver for farmers as we promised," the party tweeted, along with a picture of Baghel.
Celebrations are in order in Chhattisgarh as @Bhupesh_Baghel is appointed CM. We wish him the best as he forms a govt. of equality, transparency & integrity starting off with farm loan waiver for farmers as we promised. pic.twitter.com/7OqGcPi2eh— Congress (@INCIndia) December 16, 2018
Top party leadership have had intense discussions over the past three days before deciding on Baghel as the chief minister.
The OBC leader, who steered the party to a stupendous victory with a two-thirds majority in Chhattisgarh pipped party colleagues T S Singh Deo, Tamradhwaj Sahu and Charan Das Mahant for the top post, as Gandhi selected him to lead the state government.
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 credited for the turnaround in party 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," said Baghel’s aide on condition of anonymity.
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.