New Delhi: A child, who lacks interest in studies, can certainly make any parent jittery. But a father in Madhya Pradesh trusted his son. He knew that even if his son gives up studies, he won't give up on his promise. Thirty seven years later, the father's dream came true when Bhupesh Baghel assumed charge as the third chief minister of Chhattisgarh.
A young Bhupesh was pursuing B.Sc, in what was then undivided MP, when he began losing interest in studies. His father Nand Kumar Baghel made his son an offer — he could quit studies in exchange for the promise that he would become the chief minister of the state one day. Baghel Jr. did not hesitate even for a second and took up the challenge.
The scientific world's loss was the political sphere's gain, more precisely the Congress' gain.
From focusing on 'padyatras' for building a mass connect to reviving the morale of party workers, Bhupesh Baghel has been credited for reversing the fortunes of Congress in Chhattisgarh. Many say that he's a street-fighter, who took the BJP regime head on in the run-up to the election.
"The idea was to not conduct rallies or travel without interacting with people. Instead, Baghel walked over 10,000 km during the stretch of campaigning. He interacted with voters, the poor farmers and this helped in building a connection with voters that couldn't be replicated otherwise," said a close aide.
In the first assembly elections of Chhattisgarh in 2003, the Congress was defeated but Baghel had retained his seat. In 2008, he lost the election but returned to the assembly in 2013. He was made Deputy Leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh State Legislative Assembly from 2003 to 2008.
"The major issue that the Congress faced was that because certain leaders, including Ajit Jogi's soft stand 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 Manva Kumri Chhatriya Samaj since 1993, represents the Kurmi community that has large representation in the state.
Soon after coming to power, he announced that his government will waive short-term agricultural loans of farmers, fulfilling a promise made by the Congress ahead of the just concluded state assembly polls.
Short-term agriculture loans to the tune of over Rs 6,100 crore of over 16.65 lakh farmers drawn from cooperative banks and Chhattisgarh Gramin Banks, as on November 30, 2018, will be completely waived, he said.
(The author is visiting fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and a journalist.)