Who can blame Bhupesh Baghel if he wants to clear his name?

The Chhattisgarh chief minister-elect is tough as nails, has been outspoken against the outgoing BJP government and had refused to apply for bail when arrested on the charge of circulating a sex CD

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media
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Yashwant Dhote

His smiling face hides the steel in Bhupesh Baghel’s spine. The new Chhattisgarh chief minister-elect, a former minister and a five-time MLA, is known to be outspoken and for his stubborn streak. He is not known to mince his words and the credit for the landslide victory of the Congress in the state (68 seats to BJP’s 15) is credited largely to him.

As the state Congress president during the last five years, Baghel, who hails from the Kurmi community, led a number of protests which forced the BJP government headed by Raman Singh to withdraw its decisions.

When the BJP Government imposed a 10 quintal ceiling on paddy procurement, Baghel was at the forefront of protests which called upon farmers not to sell their paddy to the government. The government relented and increased the ceiling to 15 quintals. Similarly, when the government decided to cancel the title deeds of land given to Adivasis in the state, Baghel again hit the streets and forced the government to withdraw the decision.

Faith of farmers in Baghel is such that when he called upon farmers to wait for a higher price for paddy committed in the Congress manifesto, a large number of farmers chose to do that last month.

Similarly, when the Raman Singh Government ordered funds released to panchayats to be used to put up mobile towers, it was Baghel’s opposition that forced the government to relent.

As the party president in the state, he did not hesitate in expelling the son of former chief minister Ajit Jogi from the party. And while Jogi’s wife Renu Jogi remained in the Congress till the nominations were filed, Baghel put his foot down and refused to field her as a party candidate.

Baghel is on record as saying that he has scrupulously followed the advice of his political mentor, late Congress veteran Chandulal Chandrakar. He has always put the party above him, has never tried to conduct his politics through the media and has depended only on his ancestral business to keep the home fire burning.

Party insiders close to him estimate that as state president, he would have walked 2.75 lakh kilometres in the state. He went on padayatras and stayed in villages overnight to get a feel of the people’s pulse and their problems. Opposed to ostentatious weddings, he actively promoted mass weddings so that the poor do not squander their hard-earned money on making arrangements for elaborate weddings.

And when the Raman Singh government got him arrested on the charge of circulating a sex-CD involving a minister, he refused to apply for bail and preferred to be taken to prison. It was, he claimed, a trumped-up and politically motivated charge against him by the Raman Singh government.

His public image has been such that most BJP campaigners including Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked him by name during the poll campaign.

He has had the last laugh while leading Congress to a landslide victory. He is expected to be tough with the sections of the administration which colluded with the previous government in launching a witch-hunt against political opponents. Who can blame him?

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